Smoke gets in her eyes

It is, I realize, completely self-absorbed to complain about the myriad ways Mother Nature tried to kick my behind last week in the midst of the terrible blizzard, Nemo.

Fortunately, I have never shied away from a certain amount of navel gazing. Thus, I am more than willing to go on and on about my ongoing battle with nature, even if all we had was a smattering of my usual inability to make my own way in the world.

I have made no bones about the fact that I am incapable of taking care of myself. Oh the dressing and grooming myself I do alright most (some) of the time. I can also feed myself all too well.

Where I get tripped up is in the mechanicals of living. The heat and light portion of living like a civilized human type person instead of, say, in a cave, can elude me if I’m left alone for anything longer than 12 hours. Let’s say six to be safe.

First, now that he is safely returned to the fold, I can share that Mr. Wonderful was out of town last week. I don’t broadcast when I am home alone with the children (and dogs and goats and a cat). It’s never wise, for obvious fear of intruders, but the real issue is the sneaky nature of nature. All I need is word to get out that he has left the state and every bat, mouse, squirrel or bird in the area may immediately decide to move in.

Burn

This time, however, my battle was to be with the source of heat for our home — our outdoor wood burner. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this thing. I love it and it hates me.

In short bursts and as somewhat of a lark, I enjoy loading it with wood, feeling the burn not only of little used muscles but also the spreading warmth of pride when the fire roars and the indoor temperature rises from my efforts. There is just something so primal and satisfying about the whole process, from splitting and stacking to feeding the fire. I enjoy that immensely, for about two days.

Fortunately that first morning Boy Wonder dutifully went out and tended the fire. Unfortunately I then had to send him off to school. Apparently the state frowns on children being taken out of school to learn the pioneering arts.

At his lunch break he sent me a short text: “check the wood burner.” O.K., I checked it. It was not warm. At all. No problem. I’ve got this. I’ve built a fire before (no I haven’t). I was a Girl Scout? (Again, no). Well, whatever, how hard can it be anyway?

Kindling

I ignored my son’s increasingly panicked texts (He knows his mother well) and started with cardboard. I took my entire recycling bin full of cardboard (Sorry, Earth) and tossed it in the fire. Nothing. That label on some packaging that says “contents may burn?” Lies. All lies.

I added dry kindling from a barrel Mr. Wonderful had left just for that purpose. No dice. Mr. Wonderful was advising me, via telephone, from the balmy south. He felt the need to share how warm it was there because he’s adorable like that. Not helpful honey.

Under his tutelage, I tossed in some dry straw and a liberal squirt of charcoal lighter fluid. This produced a thrilling flare but alas, no lasting fire.

I left the door open, I tried the door closed. Nothing I did mattered. As the day wore on the temperature in the wood burner continued to drop. So simple a caveman can do it, yet I cannot make fire.

My son’s last text said “come sign me out of school and I’ll get it started for you.” He’s adorable too. I have not come this far in my faux adulthood to have to have my child bail me out. Let alone admit this to a school secretary.

No progress

I basically spent the bulk of the day with my head stuck into a big smoky metal box watching a variety of completely flammable items and combustible liquids steadfastly refuse to ignite. I sent photos of my lack of success to Mr. Wonderful . “Look, still a log.”

It was eventually, blessedly, time to pick up Boy Wonder from school. With little fanfare Boy Wonder came home and did the exact same thing I had been doing all day — to great success. In essence, my child did, in fact, bail me out.

I learned quite a bit that day, mainly that I would clearly never make it as an arsonist.

Where there is smoke there is not always fire — but there may be a much frazzled woman with slightly singed eyebrows, huffing and puffing and pouting quite a bit.

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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