Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Night in the Freezer

You know how people say, "In an old house, it's just one problem after another..."? I've lived in a lot of them, and I can testify. It's true.  
The old house I grew up in, Montrose, Alabama

 I remember my mama with her winter-long mantra, "This is the coldest old house there ever was..." wandering from room to room with a blanket wrapped around her. Southern homes of a certain age (this one was built in the 19th century) were never properly heated, and picked up drafts through the window frames and various cracks throughout. But I'll say this for that one, it was full of tall windows and the natural cross-ventilation was practically as good as air conditioning in the summer.

I'll wager that house never got as cold as this one in the Northeast was last night when I realized the problem with the boiler was not going to be fixed until morning. Heat and hot water went out early in the day and I called every plumber I knew or knew of but got no help until my ex-son-in-law, a plumber showed up at 8 P.M. He worked for an hour and a half, talking with another plumber on a cell phone as he tried to work out the problem. When he left at 9:30 he advised me that there was probably a faulty part, and not something he could repair. He told me to call a boiler technician and said my oil-supply guy would have one on call.

His last words as he walked out the door were, "This house doesn't know you yet."

I love that. Something about an old house feels like a new friend, someone palpable, someone who one is getting to know and trying to win over as soon as possible. Knowing old houses as I do I understood his remark perfectly.

I called the number of my oil supplier and was referred to the number of a boiler repair expert. He said he could come out immediately for an extra fee of $60 or if I could wait he'd come today. I'm expecting him any minute. The world of oil heat (expensive), boilers, basements, and constant flow of plumbers and men who service equipment is new to me. After all, it's my new life. And I expect it. It's an old house!


  1. Glad you survived! Yes, homes feel they MUST test-you as you grow into one another.

  2. Try singing, "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you..."

  3. It's an old-fashioned, straight-talking house, so maybe try some toughlove. "Hey, house, cough up the damn heat."

  4. You have been taking the house for granted, and now it's withholding warmth. You need to show it some respect and affection. Did you ask the staircase how it felt about being beige? Probably not. Was the kitchen consulted on the remodeling, or did you just go in there and start ripping stuff out? So sad.

  5. Love visualizing Maude Etta walking from room to room wrapped in a blanket.