Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Night the Butter Froze, & Other Anomalies of Early Marriage

Dear John,
Today I was putting butter on a slice of bread and thought about the night the butter froze.
It was thirty-five years ago - can you believe that? It was our first winter in the house in Springfield and we'd hardly begun restoring it. The kitchen wasn't insulated and we were having a very cold spell. One night I went into the kitchen and opened the fridge, and that little bell went off in my head that tells you something isn't right. I stopped, retraced my steps, and discovered that it was warmer in the fridge than in the rest of the kitchen. We always kept the butter on the counter so it would be softer. But that night I put it in the fridge because it had frozen solid. I put the butter in the fridge to keep it warm. How upside-down was that?
The house got warmer when we got the wood-burning stove installed. We heated the whole house with it. The floor plan was perfect, with the stairs right there so the warm air could rise and heat the upstairs. I only remember the butter freezing that one time. It also helped as we worked on the kitchen - put in new flooring and subflooring, fixed the windows, patched up the holes in the walls.
We had some adventures with that house, didn't we? Bats and bad wiring and holes in the floors. But we loved the house and were so happy to have it, and we took everything in stride. Our friends were all doing the same thing - buying old houses that we could afford, and fixing them up. There was a lot of experience there for us to turn to. We were happy there. I still love that house, still dream about it, go check on it every time I'm in Springfield. It is the house against which all others have been measured, the house of mythic proportions. I'll always miss it.
And I'll always miss those early years of happiness and unlimited optimism. We didn't know you couldn't have children, didn't know the radiation was causing progressive damage that would take your life way too soon. But the twenties are like that, and rightly so. You don't know the difficulties and suffering ahead of you. I'm thankful for those few - very few - carefree years. Even if we did have frozen butter.
Our butter is still a good thermostat. It's pretty hard now with the house at 64. When I have people over and turn the heat up to 66, the butter is lots softer. And when it starts to get runny in the summer, I know it's time to close the windows and turn on the air conditioning. It has taken over your job of telling me that it's too hot.
Know that my memories are good. And know that putting butter on bread can make me feel very sentimental. You are so woven into the fabric of my life, into my heart, into who I am, that you are a part of everything I do. Today you were a special part of that piece of bread and butter.
As Adrian Monk said, "Bread and butter!" I'll see you soon!

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