94: Marriage Is Like a Fireplace

94: Marriage Is Like a Fireplace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

Marriage Is Like a Fireplace

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.

~Henry Ford

In my single days, I was a television field producer for Montreal’s CTV affiliate. I had one of the best gigs in town. I wrote and directed stories about all kinds of fascinating people for a consumer affairs program that helped viewers in need. I got to tell stories that mattered to my community, and worked with talented professionals who made me laugh. By far the best perk, however, was the unsolicited advice about love and marriage that I received from Boris Bouchard, a veteran cameraman who was also about to be ordained as a minister.

Happily married for more than thirty years, “Born-Again Boris,” as I called him, couldn’t have known then the profound effect his words would continue to have upon me even today. I was always delighted when he was assigned to shoot one of my stories, because it meant that he, our sound recordist, our reporter and I could travel together in the company van to our shooting location, and be treated to one of Boris’s fascinating takes on relationships.

“Marriage is like a fireplace,” he began one day, as he calmly navigated rush-hour traffic and Quebec’s famous potholes while en route to shoot a story about mothers against pesticides. The others looked at each other and rolled their eyes, but I leaned forward in anticipation.

“Everyone loves the idea of having a fireplace,” he continued. “People make fireplaces the center of their homes, building whole rooms around them because they bring warmth and comfort. Fireplaces encourage people to gather around together.”

“Boris, I think you missed the exit,” the reporter interrupted impatiently.

Boris smiled patiently at her in the rearview mirror and made a U-turn. “But let’s remember what having a fireplace really means,” he continued. “You have to chop wood, stack it, bring it inside, lay the logs inside in a specific way, create a spark, and keep the flames burning by constantly feeding and stoking the fire.”

Boris paused for effect. “If you don’t do all of those things, all of the time, a fireplace is nothing but a dark, empty, cold hole,” he concluded.

We all sat in silence, reflecting on the cameraman’s words. The sound recordist and reporter were both divorced. Perhaps they were thinking about how they had allowed their fireplaces to grow cold.

“And you know what else? A couple in love is like a pair of scissors,” Boris said brightly. “Two useless pieces of metal, until they are inextricably connected at the core so that they can move together as one and accomplish great things.”

I briefly thought about taking out my notebook and jotting down some notes so that when I met the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I could heed Boris’s worthy advice. But I thought my sound guy would laugh at me, so I didn’t.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to take notes. I never forgot a word he said.

When I started dating my husband several years after leaving CTV to pursue a freelance career, I told him about Born-Again Boris’s words of wisdom one night over dinner. “I’ve always lived in apartments,” he told me, “but I always wanted a fireplace.”

When we first visited the house that we would eventually buy together and start our family in, the first thing we noticed was the beautiful brick fireplace in the family room. We looked at each other and smiled, knowing it would be ours. “Fireplaces are a lot of work,” I said to my soon-to-be husband. “Yes, they are,” he replied. “But can you think of anything better to work on?”

And today, I think Boris would be proud; our fireplace is continuously aglow, just as he told me it should be.


~Wendy Helfenbaum

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