Smiling because I know fireplace nap season is near

“We no longer build fireplaces for physical warmth, we build them for the warmth of the soul; we build them to dream by, to hope by, to home by.” — Edna Ferber, (1885-1968) American novelist, short story writer, and playwright

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Fall’s first forays into cool weather during the last week or so has put a smile on my face knowing the first fireplace Sunday afternoon of the season is just around the corner. For me, there is no substitute for the soothing comfort of snoozing beside a fireplace.

Fondest fireplace memories include two that stand out as Autumn’s cool winds arrive. One is the house that used to be on Kennedy Street in Center where I lived in the 1980s. The house didn’t move, it’s still there, the city changed the name of the street. The other is the cabin I owned about 20 years ago on Glass Club Lake up in Northeast Texas.

The house on what used to be Kennedy Street had two fireplaces, one real and one fake. The formal living area showcased a white majestic marble example with gas logs and a large elaborate mirror, a perfect setting for formal bridal portraits when I was active doing that kind of photography. No doubt, a few bridal portraits are still hanging near fireplace mantels somewhere featuring photos of soon-to-be brides whose smiles reflected dreams of wedded bliss in that mirror.

The cozy warmth of knotty pine walls and wood tile floors reflected real flames in the den where Sunday afternoon naps were common practice for me. An ornately carved antique oak surround with floor-to-ceiling columns on both sides and a matching mantle framed a beveled glass mirror in the architectural antique that more than 100 years old when it was built into the Center house during construction in the mid-50s.

 A few steps down the scale in terms of formality describes everything about the little cabin on Glass Club Lake including its fireplace. The original four walls central to the original structure were rumored to have been one of the original buildings on the small lake built in the early 1900s as a railroad worker’s camp when rails were being laid along highway 67 between Mount Pleasant and Texarkana.

Over the years, additions had been made to three sides for a kitchen, a living area, and a bedroom. The one wall with no additions was anchored by a rock fireplace original to the one-room cabin that was the most primitive-looking but most efficient fireplace I’ve seen. Pioneer-esque in appearance it was, but it had a draw that never allowed smoke back in the house and produced enough heat to easily keep the living area and bedroom warm.

The best memory of that fireplace was one cold winter weekend while remodeling the place when I traveled up from Center for a weekend of work with Ol’ Max, my basset hound buddy. By the time we arrived, snow on the ground was sufficient to create difficulty for the old basset’s short stubby legs.

A fire in the fireplace seemed the first order of business followed by a pot of coffee after which a few minutes of relaxation in front of the fireplace with coffee was unavoidable. I woke up once sometime later deciding to snooze a little longer before getting serious about work. The next time I awoke it was dark except for the fire’s glow and the resulting patterns of light dancing on the walls. I had spent the better part of a day snoozing by the fireplace as it snowed outside, never regretting that tools still lay untouched.

From the looks of the East Texas forecast this morning, flames flickering in the fireplace won’t happen today, but the morning temps of the last few days are a gentle reminder that it’s coming. My favorite time of the year when there are naps to be taken and dreams to be dreamed, warming my soul by the fireplace.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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