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Suburban Island

Sunday, Feb. 16, 2003, 12:00 a.m.

Question: What’s better than a fire in the fireplace?

What I learned: You don’t need hamburgers and hotdogs to use your outdoor grill.

There is a nice ordinary woodpile in our backyard on top of a hill by a split rail fence. It’s been sitting there for many a year because we:

  • Can’t remember when/if the chimney has ever been cleaned and are afraid we might burn the house down
  • Like the way the heater rheostat makes that little click and the cute blue light glows when you kick it up a notch
  • Are too lazy to climb the hill to drag down the wood
  • Don’t want to go out in the cold even if it means beening cozy and warm after the trek
  • Don’t know how to start a fire
  • Can’t find the matches anyway

You’d think that the wood that has been sitting under a tarp in your backyard minding its own business for many a winter day, would be able to settle down in peace for a spell. Not in our suburban island. This afternoon what do we see – but one of the neighbor kids waltzing off over the course of the afternoon with one big armload of firewood after another from our little pile.

Let me tell you, this created quite a stir in our house. It’s about as close as we are going to get to an Alias episode. I see little corkscrews of smoke emanating from what looks to be a Weber grill, and on a bench in the garden enjoying their winter afternoon fire, are the carefree culprits themselves. Firewood in a grill = winter outdoor stove. I must give them an A for backyard innovation.

Of course, there was some interest in viewing the fire and fire-makers through the upstairs master bedroom window, which did provide a perfect view as well as comfortable seating on the edge of the bed. That required me to do some impromptu cleaning – where did this industrial sized laundry basket filled to overflowing with the bounty of our washer and dryer come from and why was it blocking the closet doors? I throw a blanket over it - the quick decorator fix. A blanket tossed over a laundry basket in the right manner can make a real decorating statement. That’s what I hold to anyway. Have blanket – can decorate.

Everyone is sitting on the edge of the bed gazing through the window - how cool is this? It's like watching Cops but more fun because these kids are just creatively silly instead of televisingly criminal. There's no room for me in the good seats. Luckily there was another window for me to look through but no seating available - a mom has to sacrifice sometimes so I stand up instead. What a great afternoon’s entertainment.

Eventually my husband ended our adventure by strolling over to the neighbor’s house and setting the problem straight – reminding the kid that he was welcome to the wood but it was good to ask first. It was a little disappointing because we were enjoying ourselves so much but I think it was worth it just to watch my husband climb back and forth over the fence in the snow.

I felt kind of sorry for the kid because somehow it probably seemed to him after the first trip or two like he was only “borrowing” the wood. On the other hand, it is good to remember those manners and ask before you decided to “receive”. Who knows, we might have decided at that very moment that we were tired of playing with that rheostat dial or finally found the fireplace matches – and wouldn’t have that been embarrassing.

In the end, our little pile was a bit smaller than it was before but I am sure it enjoyed a little intrigue and being party to a nice rousing fire on such a cold winter day. We enjoyed a good adventure and the best part is now we know who to ask for matches. We may just get that fireplace going yet.

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