Snuggled under a down comforter, the sheets warmed by the heat of your body, you think it’s tough rolling out of bed in the morning. Suffering is relative. My relatives heated their house with a gas stove the size of a kitchen stove located in the living room. The old fireplace was filled in with cement and the stove pipe ran through the old chimney and the table-height unit sat on the hearth.
I remember thinking the brand name– Warm Morning—was goofy. “Why only a warm morning?” I wondered.” Why not a warm day? When the house was chilly we’d dive into our robes and slippers and run downstairs to warm ourselves next to the Warm Morning, turning every so often to roast ourselves evenly. By the time breakfast was ready the kitchen was warmed by the electric oven where the unsweetened, dry cornbread or canned biscuits were baking and the body heat of the aunts and my grandmother who had been up for a while getting themselves and the percolator going.
On winter mornings, 1910ish, when Grandma was learning to feed her cook-stove as a child, she had to chip holes in the ice that had formed in the jugs water hauled up from the well the night before.
In the 1960s the cousins were a [un]civilized bunch from the suburbs of Dayton where we had central heating or heated floors. The uniformly warm house we came from was our normal and so the dash to the Warm Morning seemed insanely out of date. We only experienced the big stove in the living room on trips to the Kentucky-Tennessee border where everything seemed so primitive and outdated.
The aunts and uncles would remember the “old coal-stove at Gatliff” when they got together around the Warm Morning, warming their behinds while sucking down thick black coffee; the only smoke was the exhaled pipes and cigarettes. A coal stove was a step up from a wood stove because the coal burned slower and hotter than wood, which is how my mother awoke to warm mornings when she was a child. She learned to cook over burners heated with chunks of hard coal, though later gas stoves replaced these. The kitchen cook-stove was often also the heat for a small house, supplemented with a fire in the fireplace in the evenings, should the house have such a hearth.
For the past few weeks I’ve been staying at a friend’s house heated primarily with a wood stove. I am appreciating the marketing value of that company calling their gas stove Warm Morning. A gas stove produces fire without a person feeding it fuel every hour or so. That means the fire doesn’t go out while you’re sleeping. You wake up and run to warm yourself next to a box that, like magic, is already warm when you get there.
My mornings are not all that warm – about 40-50-degrees—until I open the flue and the door to the fire-box and feed it chunks of hardwoods. By the time the coffee water boils the wood stove is starting to warm the morning. It’s not an unpleasant ritual. The cold forces you awake. The movement and awareness of safely getting a smoke-free fire going nudges you into a fuller consciousness. A dash to get the caffeine brewed and I am rewarded with thick hot coffee as I roast myself near the stove in the living room. A warm morning, only after I make it warm.