Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Most Beautiful Stove in the World

All summer this space silently weighed on my mind and tugged at my heart.My beloved thirty year old Waterford cookstove was missing. I joked that it was spending the summer at rehab camp. But it wasn't funny to me. It was a bit like my house was in a coma - lacking any life energy and seriously in danger. 

The trouble with cast iron (as my stove repairman repeatedly told me) is that it expands and contracts. Over its 10,000 days of heating my home and cooking my meals, one by one its parts loosened, its screws dropped out, bits of refractory cement turned up in my dustpan. From time to time I replaced worn out parts. I resigned myself to the fact that it became so leaky that it wouldn't hold a fire more than a couple of hours and I was using twice as much wood as I had when it was new.

Six months and $5,000 later, it's back! In one tiny detail it reminds me of the moment after Maggy was born when a sense of relief washed over me making me aware of how anxious I had been over the preceding months.

I expected it in August - or maybe September. But one after another, things went wrong in the repair process. Each new problem required another replacement part from Ireland. Is is possible that they don't have air freight in Ireland? When nights got chilly in October my subliminal anxiety edged its way into my consciousness. In November as I planned the Thanksgiving menu I could barely control my frustration.

Finally the stove's return was scheduled for November 24th - the day before Thanksgiving. The schedule didn't make me feel much better. There was still at least a 50-50 chance something else would go wrong. Tuesday the 23rd, as I drove home from work, I imagined the inevitable phone message waiting for me. Sure enough, the answering machine light was blinking. It was Angela asking if they could bring it Wednesday afternoon instead of morning and trying to reassure me not to worry. They absolutely would bring it Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday I occupied myself with distracting chores all day. Mid-afternoon when the truck pulled into the driveway I was cautiously optimistic, skeptical, hopeful and doubtful all at the same time. I couldn't make small talk with Bob. After greeting him and pointing out just where the feet of the stove should go (even after six months of cleaning the floor, the marks where it used to stand were still there) I went upstairs to clean some more. Hours later, there it was in all its nearly new glory.

On the plus side, Bob charged me just what he'd estimated in August (twice what he'd estimated in June) tho' he said, and I believe, that he'd put quite a bit more labor into it than he'd estimated. On the down side, because of the paint and cement tempering and burning off, I couldn't cook our Thanksgiving turkey in it. Thank heaven for B's gas oven upstairs. Still, we did all our stovetop cooking on the Waterford and enjoyed it's warmth.

It was truly like watching the house awakening from a coma. And I was thankful. 

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