Monday, November 29, 2010

The big chill commences

"Summer's lease hath all too short a date," Will wrote in Sonnet 18, and although I'm always glad to see the seasons change -- particularly from winter into spring -- I have to say that I don't mind that this summer is behind us. It was hot. And too long, because it pretty much just ended a couple of weeks ago, in my opinion. I'm inclined to be snappish with Mother Nature when the temperature climbs into the seventies in mid-November. It's supposed to be cold, I complain to the great outdoors. It is supposed to be rainy and windy so that we can feel COZY as we sit indoors with our books and our mugs of tea and our Ambient Fire DVDs (it makes me a little sad that when our house was built, fireplaces were considered hopelessly old-fashioned, with huge coal furnaces being all the rage.) I've had enough gasping in the heat to last me until, well, next summer.

So here it is, cold. Our old windows are surprisingly tight in this house, but my husband reinforces them with that tightly-stretched plastic - not a decorative look I'm particularly fond of, but truth be told, it's almost impossible to tell it's even there behind the blinds and the curtains. Our front door poses more of a problem when it comes to keeping drafts out because it is about 130 years old, is nine feet tall, has wavy glass as thin as tissue paper and a number of gaps between the door and the frame that range in size between "matchbook" and "cavernous." The fact that it is beautiful and makes my heart happy every time I look at it is the most important of all its attributes, in my opinion.

I stood shivering in front of the door one day, contemplating the ways it could be fixed so that all the winds of the world couldn't roar through in gusty drafts that caused the curtains covering the windows in the foyer to dance merrily around. My ideas were few: 1) Get a new front door, an idea I immediately rejected because I am emotionally involved with this front door, even if it does have all the wind-halting properties of a cheese grater; or 2) just leave it as it was and start wearing so many turtlenecks and sweaters, we'd be unable to bend our arms, which seemed unworkable, considering that I need the use of my bent arms to type, cook dinner and put on my makeup; or 3) go to Lowe's or Home Depot and get some of that sticky foam stuff you apply to the edge of the door to give it a tight seal. The very thought of committing such an act of desecration on our lovely door gave me sweaty palms, so after I washed my hands, I went to my husband.

"We need to do something about the front door," I said, standing in front of the television so that his view of whatever current football game was playing was obscured.

"By this 'we' you actually mean 'me,' right?" he responded, arching his neck back and forth to see around me. Because of the generous proportions of my figure, he was unable to do so.

"Yes," I admitted. "I mean you. But only because I can't think of what to do."

My husband flipped down the footstool of his recliner and stood up. "Luckily, I grew up poor, so I know exactly how to fix this kind of problem. Do you have any magazines you're done reading?"

I did. I went and got him a couple of old issues of Martha Stewart Living, which I thought was appropriate for the kind of task he was undertaking, and he spent the second half of his televised football game cutting, folding and taping. When he and the game were both done, he called me into the foyer to demonstrate his creation.

He held up several magazine pages, folded lengthwise and taped together to form one long piece about the width of a ruler. He'd actually made two, I found out shortly - one of which was stuck in the crack between the door and the jamb above the door's knob and lock, and one for below. "That's all it takes," he said, squatting back on his heels. "If we'll just be sure to keep this draft blocker across the bottom of the door, I think we'll find that it stays warmer in here. My mom used to make these things out of grocery bags when I was a kid," he added. "It always worked then and it's a nice, cheap fix."

"Cheap is good," I said gladly, pleased that I didn't have to do something aesthetically violent to my door.

And you know what? It works! In the back of the house, because our laundry room is so out of plumb, the door back there has some issues too, but it is a regular sized door, and when the wind's from the north, that door is low enough that we can stuff our artfully folded magazine page-and-grocery bag "door stuffers," as we call them, all around the edges, which makes the whole back half of the house warmer, in spite of the fact that the dogs feel that the sand-filled draft blocker that lies in front of the door is one of their special and most favorite playthings to drag around the house.

Speaking of the dogs, there are Dobby the minature pinscher and Zuzu the schnoodle up there on the couch in a rare moment of quiet, wrapped in a fuzzy fleece blankie and enjoying the fact that if a blanket should ever fail them, there's always a warm lap waiting.

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