101. Mommy, I’m Cold

101. Mommy, I’m Cold

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Mommy, I’m Cold

Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.

~Linda Wooten

My three-year-old daughter woke me up before dawn: “Mommy, I’m cold.” It was January, and while we often experience warm-wind Chinooks in Alberta that warm up our winters, I could tell right away the Chinook was definitely over and winter was back full force. It was cold in the house.

Hopping out of bed to tuck her back in, the cold air took my breath away. Wow! I must have forgotten to turn the heat up before going to bed.

After getting extra blankets for my daughter and her twin brother, I turned up the thermostat — which didn’t seem to be too low. I jumped back into bed to warm up and get a bit more sleep.

Waking up a few hours later with the alarm, I noticed the house was still very cold. And there was no heat coming from the registers.

After getting the kids situated with breakfast, bundled up in heavy sweaters and hats, I ventured into the basement to see if I could figure out the problem. Perhaps the furnace needed to be relit.

I had never taken the time to examine the furnace at our new home. I had limited experience with furnaces all together, but I did have basic knowledge of pilot lights and how to light them however, I was surprised to find that I did not have a furnace with a pilot light. Instead I had an electric furnace with no pilot light in sight.

I saw some lights flashing, so I grabbed the manual and deciphered the coded flashing.

Proud of myself, I declared, “Aha! It’s the igniter!”

I ran upstairs to check on the kids.

“Mommy, it’s cold.” My son shivered in his sweater.

“I know sweetie, the furnace is broken.”

“Fix it?” my daughter asked.

I could fix broken Barbie legs, broken truck wheels, and ripped books so it seemed simple to my children. If I could fix everything that was broken in their world, I should be able to fix the heat as well.

I laughed and said, “No, sweetie. Mommy is going to call someone.”

I put the kids in the living room where the gas fireplace could keep them somewhat warm while I flipped through the yellow pages.

It only took me a few minutes to discover that the earliest anyone could come to fix the furnace would be in three days. Since my handy husband was out of town on business for a few days and I was alone with two very cold children in -30 C temperatures, three days was not an option!

Frustrated, I angrily asked the furnace repair man, “I have two small children and no heat! What would you suggest I do?”

“Well, I can get someone out there for $500 if it’s an emergency, or I can sell you the part for $30 and you can do it yourself.”

“I don’t have $500,” I cried.

“Well, I have the part in stock,” he calmly replied.

I glanced at my children, huddled near the fireplace. I could fix the furnace if I had to, couldn’t I? After all I could fix Barbie legs, broken truck wheels and ripped books. Why couldn’t I fix a furnace?

“Okay, I’ll be right there.”

The kids were happy to get into the warm car, where the heat did work. And we made the forty-five-minute trip to the other side of the city where I received detailed instructions about handling the part carefully. It was very fragile, and any contact with my skin would render it useless.

The salesman looked at me doubtfully and almost chuckled when I told him I would be installing the part myself.

Annoyed, I paid for the part and left without receiving any instruction on how to actually install it.

Once home, I was ready to go. I was careful not to touch the igniter with my bare hands, but had forgotten how fragile the part was until it snapped in my hands when I tightened it with the screwdriver.

Back to the drawing board!

I was too embarrassed to go back to the first guy, so I searched through the yellow pages again. I lucked upon a store much closer to my home that had the part in stock. This time, I was a little humbler and asked the salesman for instructions on how to install it.

I’m sure he sensed my desperation, standing there with two small children bundled up from head to toe. He smiled and took me into the back of the shop where there was a furnace the same model as mine. He walked me through every step and showed me exactly what to do.

I dropped the kids at a neighbor’s house to play while I attempted my repair for the second time. This time, I knew exactly what to do. I slowly went through every step, and when I finished I put the exterior panel back on and held my breath. Holding down the igniter button, I counted to three and let go. When I opened my eyes, I saw the glow of the igniter. I couldn’t believe it. Moments later I heard the furnace pumping hot air throughout the frigid house.

I went upstairs with tears in my eyes. I was so excited! I cranked up the thermostat and left to retrieve the kids. When I told them I had fixed the heat in the house, they were both so happy. But I realized later that night, as they proudly told their daddy on the phone that I had fixed the furnace, my children had never doubted me for a minute. After all, in their eyes Mommy could fix anything.

~Elena Aitken

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