Forget the Patriots & Seahawks. Around here, winning means a working furnace and no pogroms

Saturday night, Sweetheart and I got ready to settle down on the couch for a night of hard-core TV watching. We’d done the grocery shopping, mom-visiting and dog-walking earlier in the day, because a snowstorm was in the weather forecast.

Mushroom pie  was in the oven, kale salad and a berry pie were in the fridge. I’d put on a warm sweatshirt, but I was still cold. As I was wrapping a blanket around myself, I had an “aha!” moment.

“Are you cold?”

“No,” Sweetheart said. “Why?”

“Because I am. It’s freezing in here!”

“Sweetheart got up and looked at the thermostat. It was 58. (That would be about 14 for you Celsius types.)

The realization he hadn’t heard the fan for awhile was followed by an inspection of the living room heat register. It was cold. Next up? He took a trip to the basement. Sure enough, the furnace was off. I called down the stairs and offered to come and help. (I wasn’t sure with what.) No need, he said.

Back upstairs, he went for his phone, checked his contact list and called Bob.

We haven’t talked to Bob in seven years, when the furnace in my former house died between our move and the house sale and the pipes froze. Bob had installed our current house’s furnace back when Sweetheart was married to Ex. After they were done being married and I was working on rehabbing my Abused Victorian, Sweetheart hooked me up with him – in a strictly business sense. Bob replaced the two 1959 dinosaur furnaces with the brand-new high-efficiency model that broke while under warranty.  (It had nothing to do with him – it was a faulty part inside the furnace. Bob also redid the ductwork and installed central air conditioning in my former house. He is all kinds of wonderful.)

Gene went back downstairs, this time with Bob on the other end of the phone. He walked outside. He went back downstairs. When he came back up, he was off the phone.

“Bob thinks it’s the igniter and he’s got one on his truck. He’ll be here tomorrow, mid-morning.”

We threw an extra blanket on the bed. Once the dog was settled for the night, I covered her with a blanket. She lifted her head and gave me one of those “Why are you punishing me?” looks, but she didn’t try to kick it off. (At 14+ years and after two ACL surgeries, her legs don’t work as well as they used to.)

The cat curled up on the bed with us. We slept. By morning, the temperature was down to 51F (10C). Outside, the snow was falling thick and fast and a strong north wind was blowing. Sweetheart’s strategy for warming the house was to set the oven on a clean cycle and build a fire – in the fireplace.

I made waffles and we huddled in the parlor, reading the Sunday papers in front of the fire. By the time Bob arrived at about 2 – the snow had slowed everyone down – we’d shoveled the driveway out so he’d be able to park easily. (It seemed the least we could do.) Twenty minutes later, he handed me the dead igniter.

A photo of the broken igniter, before its final burial
I’d already sung “Taps” and thrown the igniter into the wastebasket, but then I removed it from its burial place so I could take this picture.of its little corpse. That handsome bearded chap in the background is Bob.

The new one was already doing its work. We had a lovely chat about life, children, grandchildren (his) and furnace life spans. We did not talk about the Superbowl, because (with the exception of Green Bay in my case) Sweetheart and I are not football people.

By nightfall, the drive and walkways were snowed over again, but we were warm. And I was grateful for our good fortune, which included the broken igniter. I had a broken igniter because I have a furnace, and I have a furnace because I have a house, and that makes me lucky and blessed.

That was especially brought home by an e-mail my sister sent this morning to me and our cousin Cindy.

“I thought you might like to see this,” Debby wrote. “It’s a letter….written by our paternal great-grandfather, Moses-Mordechai Edelstein, in 1920, and was used by our grandfather as evidence for why he needed a passport. This preceded his and his siblings’ trip back to the Old Country in the early or mid-1920s, to bring the rest of the siblings back.”

I’m posting it here. It’s hard to read, but it was written after my great-grandparents and my Great-Aunt Miriam were run out of their village in Lithuania after a 1920 pogrom.

A 1920 letter from my great-grandfather, Moses Mordechai, in Lithuania, to his Waldman children in Boston.

The original letter is written in Yiddish. The translator typed the English version. I’d never seen it before today. I knew one thing about Moses Mordechai before the letter, which is that he was he was one smart and crafty fellow.

I say this because in my great-grandfather’s day, Jewish boys as young as eight were conscripted into the Czar’s army for decades of compulsory service. Those with physical deformities were exempted, so a lot of parents sacrificed a boy’s fingers or toes in order to preserve the rest of the boy.

Not so Moses Mordechai. He managed to keep each of his eight sons from being drafted without having to sacrifice a single body part. Only sons were not drafted. Which is why he and his wife gave their eight sons not just original first names, but last ones, too.

3 thoughts on “Forget the Patriots & Seahawks. Around here, winning means a working furnace and no pogroms

  1. A beautiful letter. Now I know where your literary talent came from. He must have been quite a guy. Love Mrs Rosey Nose.


  2. Trying to find your contact info on WordPress but can’t find it. We are relatives, my great grandfather was Simon Waldman, brother of your great grandfather. Fascinating letter. Would love to connect.


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