The question of why my father did this every year weighed on my young mind. A home and yard is meant to be enjoyed, not laboured over. A snowy outdoors is meant to be trampled through, not worked in. Yet here he was, axe cast down from over his head, log after log.
“Tired?” he asked. His face was flushed and this word fell hard on me.
“Sort of.” I replied.
“That’s ok. Take a break.” he said.
And I did. I sat panting on my chopping block, picking at its bark. My father went through about a dozen more logs before he spoke again.
“It’s not too fun going through them all, is it?”
I looked up at him from my seat.
“But every cold moment out here is a warm one in there.” He continued, gesturing to our home.
We piled the logs and went indoors to warm up.
And so here I am in the warmth of my basement, sitting on the cold concrete that is smooth and refreshing. He sits beside me on his foot stool and works the latch. The doors relents and releases a smouldering wonderland, with hearty oak logs giving off the cold smell of autumn leaves. Fire tickles their bellies as coals, deep with intensity, are lined beneath. All resting on a bed of ashes, decades old. My face is scorched by the fire’s breath as sweat begins to collect on my temples. I close one eye and tilt my head away slightly. There we sit watching the fire gorge itself and I’m amazed by the swirling colour. I can see that my father’s amazement matches my own. I rest my arm on his knee with my head following. The tough denim is still cool. It stretches over his bent leg.
I hear a third creak as my father stands, with a grunt that follows. The room lingers with the smell of charred wood and ash. He instructs me to lead our way upstairs and so he follows me up the narrow staircase. We both pause on the landing where moonlight leaks through our back door window. The kitchen is to our right, its tiled floor is hidden beneath the dark and its countertops are lit by the stove clock. The green numbers pierce through the room and onto our front windows that overlook the hills in front of us. The hills look like still water, faintly revealed by the glowing sky. We are an island in a midnight sea. My mother left our front door open with only a screen door left closed and the night air creeps in unabated. My father closes the front door as my fingers trail the walls of the hallway that leads to our bedrooms. Smooth with only slight pebbling, they are warm to the touch already.
Everything is settled. The latch on the stove stands watch, never wavering, never faltering. The basement, with soft creaks, quick pops, and a hushed flame, is set in perfect noises. The back door stands in the spotlight of the moon, proud of his guard. The kitchen is an auditorium, all eyes on the stove clock. I sit in bed with my body half covered by my blanket for a long while to listen to my home breathe. We are both tired. My head is cool once more when I lie down to submit to motionless sleep. Later, the fire fades as morning storms the horizon.
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