As the temperatures plummeted last week into the single digits and then to the negative ones we ran into a bit of a problem. The night seemed extra chilly when I got up in the wee hours to feed the baby, but when my husband awoke very early for work he found the thermostat to be mocking him with a less than desirable number. He did what any good husband would do and he built a fire in the fireplace and began doing everything that he knew to get the house warm. We soon realized however that we had a serious problem. When it was time to get up and start school that morning we had been able to raise the temp from the low 40s in the house to just shy of 52. Not exactly comfortable in my book (in case I haven’t mentioned…I hate to be cold). Nonetheless, we began our morning in a bit of an unconventional manner by doing school right next to the fireplace.
It was here that I began to think of my grandmother. Grandma grew up in the country on a farm. Grandma has recounted numerous stories to me from her childhood on that farm, and I seem to remember that there was no heat and no indoor plumbing until she was nearly a young adult. She lived in the same state then as we do now, so I know there were some winters that were colder than others, and surely she too had to experience negative numbers on the thermometer. She survived. Therefore I had to almost laugh when several friends gasped at my being without a furnace and not evacuating my home. I’ve got this…I know how to make do. Grandma could do without heat and indoor plumbing; at least I have electricity, and indoor plumbing!
I began calling my friends and asking who had space heaters. I am prepared if the electricity should go out as I do have kerosene heaters and a fireplace, but to be honest those are last resort options for sole sources of heat. I love that I have an amazing church family and a number of friends responded with offers of small room heaters that they would lend us until we could get the furnace fixed. I then called the furnace guy and began trying to figure out how long we would have to use our “grit” and grassroots efforts of staying warm.
Here’s where it gets kind of interesting. When we had the furnace looked at, and an estimate given, I don’t think that the company realized they were not dealing with some desperate mama who would pay whatever the cost to get that heat fixed immediately, including blindly shelling out crazy amounts of cash without doing her research. Again, grandma never had heat; I can make do for at least as long as it takes to not get taken to the cleaners! When the estimates came in I think that there was a bit of dishonesty going on as the company just informed me that parts were not available any longer for my furnace and therefore I would need to get them to give me an estimate on a new system. Hmmmm. I think like I should do what I would do if I were told I had a medical situation requiring surgery, I would want a second opinion. To which I got one, and discovered that if I was willing to wait a few days that a part indeed could be ordered that would fix the heat and save thousands. Hmmmm. There’s my “grit” coming to the rescue.
So, what exactly do I mean by “We’ve lost our Grit?” As a whole, our society has forgotten that just 70 or 80 years ago, all of the luxuries that we take for granted were not readily available to all. I mean maybe your grandma had indoor plumbing and heat, but if she did, I bet your great grandma did not. It wasn’t a dire emergency if they could do without, so it isn’t a dire emergency if I am without… as long as I know how to make do. That is what most of the country is lacking, the knowledge of how to make do. When our hot water heater had to be repaired and we were without for a 2 day stint I had a number of friends ask why I didn’t just call a plumber and have it all replaced immediately putting the cost on a Lowes or Home Depot charge…Well, it’s because I know how to make do. That little part for the water heater cost us $13.00…Something those friends would have shelled out hundreds to have someone replace the entire unit for. In the meantime I know how to heat water on the stove and carry it to bathtubs to bathe, and I know how to heat water for washing dishes. That’s the grit.
I called grandma today as I was getting ready to write this post and I asked her about how they did stay warm when the temperature got really cold. Grandma told me that the farmhouse was a 2 story farmhouse that had bedrooms upstairs and the heat stove downstairs. She recounted that her mother would pile the upstairs beds high with blankets. Great grandma wanted her littles comfortable too so she would heat water bottles and put them in the beds so that when the children climbed in their spots were warm and they could then push the hot water bottles to the foot of the beds to keep their feet warm. I am told that the windows would sometimes frost on the inside because of the cold and if the wind was really wicked maybe even a stray snowflake or two would end up inside on the windowsill. I asked why they didn’t all just sleep next to the wood stove and grandma just said because there were no beds there, our beds were upstairs.
So, no complaints from me, we used the borrowed space heaters for bedrooms upstairs and slept under our down comforters with the upstairs temp staying around 65 degrees. We then just took the space heaters downstairs with us in the mornings and built a fire in the fireplace to warm the downstairs and keep the pipes from freezing. Not to mention, we don’t have to go outside to go to the outhouse…so, this mama can make do and wait for that furnace part to arrive…with “grit”.