Cold Lesson

It’s Monday morning. Hm, let’s see, how did this go again? Pipe in the heating system broke last Tuesday night, left for Chicago on Wednesday, court date ran late, so rather than come right home I had to spend Wednesday night in Dekalb, then came back mid-day Thursday and had pipe fixed. Elihu got home from school then in a couple more hours we had a warm house again. Ironically, the next morning we ran out of heating oil and the house began to get cold again. I bought some kerosene and dumped it in. The tank was at 6 inches. Good for a few days – until I could get a proper delivery of oil. All was well and back to normal by Friday evening when Elihu returned home from school.

Then in the middle of the night it began to get cold again. I checked my math; I’d put eight gallons in. At less than 2 gallons a day, it should be fine all weekend, right? What was going on? After putting it off a couple hours, I finally braved the forty degree house temps and went downstairs to the furnace. You see, now I kinda know about these things. I went through all this last spring. In 2010, when Elihu and I made a list of the things we’d learned or accomplished that year, he’d written “Mommy is not afraid of using a saw”. If we’d made such a list for the following year he might have written “Mommy is not afraid to check the furnace”. I don’t like balloons because they pop, but as the mother of a young child I have learned to blow them up anyway. I don’t like furnaces because they deal with contained explosions, but as a lover of a warm house, I have learned how to bleed the air out of the system and restart the pump.

This time however, it is clearly not as simple. You know the way a car over a certain age just starts to need everything in it replaced? First it’s this, then it’s that, then you’re asking yourself whether it might not be wiser in the long run to just buy a new car. I’m kinda there with the various systems of this house. Only thing is, you don’t just trade in your house for a new one that works. Today I will call someone to look at the furnace. I will stand over their shoulder the whole time and ask them to teach me whatever it is that I need to learn how to do to fix this situation should it ever happen again. My guess is it’s the oil filter. And I’m less afraid to poke around and see for myself than I would have been last year. I’m this close to finding a pair of pliers (don’t own a wrench set and so can’t attempt it the correct way) and just wresting the damned bolt off to see what’s going on. But then what? So I have a dirty filter. Can I whack it against the side of the kitchen sink and just put it back in? Or is it that simple? Does it even lift out? Or do I need a new one altogether?

I’ve always marveled at the way so many men just seem to know how things work. They just seem to know that ‘it’s your oil filter, m’am’… So many of em just plain know stuff, as if they were born with it. But you know they weren’t. Now I get it. They’ve been tinkering for years. And I’ve only just started to pay attention, let alone tinker. (Course the only tools I have are some dollar store screwdrivers. I’m not really outfitted to tinker anyway.) Every time something needs fixing, I learn from it. And while it wasn’t enough to get the air out of the oil line this time, whatever it turns out to be, I’ll know about it now. Yep, today I will learn another new thing about how something in my home works. On the third day of living in this forty degree house there is some tiny, hidden gift.

Just gotta get the kid dressed and off to school first. Me, I’m going to get some of my own schooling today too. Home schooling, that is.

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