My part of the world can be gorgeous on sunny fall days, when the afternoon light shines on brilliant red and yellow leaves and the sky is a deep blue. But towards the end of October, we get dark, cold days of icy rain. Nothing is so chilly as rain when the temperatures are hovering around freezing. The winds blow the leaves off the trees, leaving bare branches against the cloudy sky, and slap against wet winter coats and the bare hands of those who haven't gotten their mittens out yet for the season. Most of us are just hoping the precipitation will turn to snow, which is lighter and more cheerful, and warmer because it doesn't soak through all your clothes.
On days like this, I keep a fire going in the fireplace. It's the only way to ward off the ominous realization that the days are getting darker and shorter and colder. The crackle and the heat that radiates from the flames makes my home a cosy place to be. On cold, wet weekends, everyone gathers around the fire: it's the natural place to go as soon as you walk in the door.
Boy in Black was home last weekend to play Ultimate Frisbee with his siblings and extras, and they played all day Saturday, despite the cold and rain. They wore long underwear and gloves, but they were practicing layouts, which involves throwing your entire body against the ground, often into a puddle, and they would come in periodically to cluster around the fire, dripping muddy pools of water onto the carpet. Red-haired Sister was in town with her kids, and she chose a spot by the fire where she could nestle with a good book. She is a restful person to be around. If I say something like, "Sorry things are such a mess here," she shrugs and says, "Oh, I wouldn't expect the house to be clean with all the kids you've got here." And if some cleaning does need to be done, like say, we've run out of clean glasses and we are all drinking out of vases and measuring cups, she'll pitch in to help clean and help yell at the kids to clean too.
With-a-Why and his cousin Suburban Nephew kept disappearing upstairs to play in the boys' room, but every so often they would wander back down to the fire where their mothers were. With-a-Why has a habit of just stopping at the piano to play a song, or even a piece of a song, whenever he enters the room. Dandelion Niece and Neighbor Girl, who are about the same age, were running around the house together, but they kept coming back to the fire to ask a question or ask for something to eat.
Always we gather near the fire, drawn to the warmth, the smell, the crackling noise.
Blonde Niece, who is one of the Ultimate Frisbee players, will come in sopping wet and sit on the hearth, saying, "Oh, that fire feels good." My Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter will take a place on the couch with her laptop, basking in the warmth as she writes a paper. The boys will all bring their mugs of hot cocoa over to the fire, sitting on arms of the comfy chair or on the hearth or the floor. My husband will always look over at me and say, "Aren't you glad we put in a fireplace when we built this house?"
I cannot imagine these cold fall days without it.