Amazing as it may seem, I didn't actually stop to think, as in long and hard and with perception, about the beginning of yesterday's post. That is, I didn't not think about it, but I didn't think too hard about the irony factor, consumed as I was with nostalgia for those English Christmases, bitter and dark as the best kind of chocolate -- none of yer wimpy milk choco for me, thank you very much. And all the while, the same kind of Christmas has been bearing down on us, with promises of similar memorability. It's not here yet, but I'm starting to be able to envision it.
The heat is out, as in defunct, and until day before yesterday, it wasn't too bad. Temperatures outside were in the mid-60s, with sunshine -- perfect weather for September, as Amicus kept observing -- until Thursday, when the Boy Scouts were slated to spend the day pushing turkey-dinner-laden wheelbarrows to the cars of our neighborhood soup-kitchen clientele. Then, of course, the temperature dropped, and it rained. It rained and rained and rained. Epiphany and I drove to Panacea Falls in the rain, with a whisper of gas in the van, because even though the low-fuel light was on, I knew I had enough to get us there, and maybe once we'd been in the mall for the fifteen minutes or so that I could really stand to be there, the rain would stop, and I wouldn't have to get out in it to pump the gas.
Three hours and many pairs of skinny jeans later (we bought only one pair, and we know they were the right ones, having test-driven all the others extensively), we staggered through the Dillards store, past the perfume counters and the shoes and the Spanx, which somehow were the landmark we dinstinctly remembered having passed coming in, and out into what was now a rainy night, filled with headlights, as far as the proverbial eye could proverbially see. First I couldn't find my way out of the mall parking lot (oh, how I detest malls, which must be why I have such trouble getting out of them), and then when I did find an exit, the road it opened onto had one of those concrete median bumper things in the middle, so that I couldn't have turned left, onto the road with the sixty-seven gas stations, even if there hadn't been an apocalyptic-looking flood of headlights pouring past.
So we turned right, and the flood tide bore us, by tiny halting increments, past many businesses which were surely all things to many people, but not really what we needed at the moment. There was nothing to do but inch forward, up a hill and around a sweeping curve to the interstate, where again there was nothing to do but get on. I was not nearly, by this time, so sanguine about the gas gauge, which I kept squinting at as I drove, trying to ascertain the exact position of the red needle relative to the red line of absolute doom. They were starting to look alarmingly like one and the same. I had never yet run out of gas in that particular car -- a 12-passenger van -- but I had run out of gas in other cars on numerous other occasions, and as I drove, trying to remember whether or not I had the current AAA card with me, or whether it, like others of my cards, had fallen out of my dilapidated wallet into the bottom of my purse, whence who knows where it might have traveled, I was waiting for the familiar limp and halt of the engine, the dying-out of the forward momentum, the descent of utter regret, remorse, and shame, the recurrence of that reproachful ghost of filling-stations passed.
To make this story far more boring than it might have been, it didn't happen. We made it to our exit; we made it to the Marathon station at the bottom of the ramp; I leaped out with joy undoubting into the rain at the pump. I'd have made Epiphany do it, she of the new jeans -- and she did offer, I hasten to say, being a good girl and all -- but she was wearing a dress and flats, and I had on boots, and I even I am not quite so mean as all that. Anyway, I wanted to kiss the gas pump, or at least to salute it with affection.
So we came home, through the dark and wet, to find the oven on, the gas fire in the study blazing in its utterly predictable and calculated way, and everyone in the house gathered before one or the other, while in other rooms the space heaters pressed back ineffectually against the chill.
Hm, Aelred and I remarked gloomily to each other. We had, heretofore, been pretty sanguine about the no-heat situation, but now we weren't so much. The furnace is definitively dead -- it is the definition of that death which has no hope of resurrection -- having a cracked something-or-other-important-and-beyond-repair. The good news is that this home warranty, for which we have been shelling out five hundred smackaronis a year, covers the full cost of replacement, or so says our contract. Since the repairman's visit, we have yet to speak to an actual live person connected with the home-warranty company, but it's the same company that covered our old house and shelled out for no end of repairs and replacements there, so we do have faith that eventually things will all come together, but not before Christmas.
We're really not freezing to death, don't worry. Our dear neighbors have brought us more space heaters, and we have the oven and gas fire going, so there are warm places in the house. And this is North Carolina, remember, not North Dakota: cold here means 43F, uncomfortable and you could get hypothermia if you tried, but not all that life-threatening, even when --as keeps happening -- one heater or another throws a breaker out, and half the house goes dark. Now, too, as yesterday, the sun is shining, so that in my southeast-facing room, where I'm sitting in bed with the covers over my knees and my long-johns and wool sweater on, the chill is evaporating fast, like the arcs of condensation on the windows.
I'd like to bring all of this to some theological conclusion, but then again I'm frequently irritated by writing that brings everything to a theological conclusion, even though I know perfectly well that there is a theological conclusion to everything, ultimately. At least, there's the conclusive Theos, whether we're studying Him or not. So I will merely say that yes, it's Advent, which fact I have remarked before, and Christmas Adam is tomorrow (say my children), then Christmas Eve, then Christmas itself, which may present with what I think of as the proper weather after all, and not t-shirts-on-the-porch weather, which we love and abhor in equal measure. The world didn't end yesterday, but someday it will; though today the sun is shining, the day will come when we need no light from lamps or the sun, and presumably no heat from the gas fire, either, for the Lord God will be our light and our heat and our everything. And I find that I don't dread that nearly so much as I might.
PS: Amicus said yesterday that he had dreamed all the night before that he was still pushing wheelbarrows full of frozen turkeys across the Christian Ministries parking lot, just around the corner from us; he must have taken this as a sign, because he went back to volunteer in the soup kitchen at lunchtime. I didn't actually learn this until dinner, because he keeps very quiet about things like this, but when I did learn it, I was swelled with pride, the good kind I think, about him.