Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cursing the darkness.

I came into the bedroom, empty and ablaze with light. I walked through the bright vacant hallway, the incandescent unoccupied dining room and the dazzling deserted kitchen. I found Consort and Daughter in the back yard. I took each one by the hand and propelled them into the kitchen where I encouraged them to contemplate the wall.

“Do you two see anything?” I prompted.

They exchanged worried glances. Was Quinn seeing something? Had Mommy found the Virgin Mary is what was left of a spider web? Was someone professionally trained going to have to be called in to trap and sedate me?

After a second, Daughter hazarded a guess. “I see…a light switch?”

“Good, excellent,” I beamed. “A light switch is exactly what I hoped you would notice. Now, what do you do with a light switch?”

Daughter frowned, puzzled. Consort frowned in another way; he sensed what was behind this new interest in the Socratic Method.

Daughter spoke first. “You…turn on lights?”

“Yes, that’s one thing you can do with a light switch. Can you think of another?”

She thought. She thought some more. She leapt into the fray.

“You…could…turn the light…off?”

I smiled at my Most Improved Player. “Yes, you can switch off a light. As a matter of fact, you can both switch off a light when you leave a room. It doesn’t make the light sad to turn it off. In fact, I like to think it makes the light happy to rest and not grow hot lighting a room without a single living thing in it.”

But it was too late, I had lost them both. Consort and Daughter leave the lights burning in any room they visit -- a 60-watt update to Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs. I, on the other hand, gasped at the very first electricity bill I received as an independent adult and took a vow of darkness. I am still toying with the idea of jettisoning lights altogether and wearing a miner’s hat after dusk each day.

I’m not cheap. I’m not! I just hate spending money when it's avoidable, and my definition of “Avoidable Spending” is slightly wider than most folks'. Consort thinks the kitchen looks bright and hospitable if it's well lit. I wonder why anyone would feel drawn to a room which is shouting “Welcome!” at the top of its lungs. Of course, with all this illumination, the room is also shouting: “Having poor design choices made on it for over 75 years!” If I turn on all the historically accurate overhead fixtures we had installed, you’re going to notice how everything else is just historical (meaning: old) It is also weird, ill-advised, or downright sadistic. You might even ask a question like “Where are all of your drawer-pulls?” or “How many drawers do you have in here, anyway?”

On the other hand, if it’s dark, and you make your way through by touch, you probably won’t ask those questions. You’ll speak of me scornfully to friends and strangers, but you won’t be asking about the drawer-pulls.

In the aforementioned Dark Food Place, we have one element besides the light fixtures which actually would benefit from radiance and attention; we have a refurbished antique stove. The sweet stove, which with all its chrome and curves resembles a 1936 Buick, has a light fixture in the top which throws a glowing aura down on the burners. Consort likes to keep that lamp on so people notice the stove. I don’t always disagree; I like that light turned on for up to three hours after the stove has been cleaned. But within a day of normal use the stove is already coated in a fine film of cooking oil, dust, toast crumbs, salt, pasta and sauce. It’s less Buick, more Muppet.

At least once a day, I do some sort of perfunctory cleaning with either white vinegar or one of the cleaning supplies I get from Whole Foods which seem to be white vinegar with lavender oil added. Consort thinks this is adorable, if misguided and maddening. He thinks cleaning supplies should actually, you know, clean. And the healthy stuff doesn’t seem to remove the dirt as much as shuffle it around, takes it on little field trips throughout the stove. Consort likes to use the stuff which not only dissolves grease and dirt, but by virtue of being used in proximity to my child, guarantees my grandchild will have a tail.

Or, I could turn off the light and avoid the whole situation.


Blogger torontopearl said...

“Good, excellent,” I beamed. “A light switch is exactly what I hoped you would notice. Now, what do you do with a light switch?”

Nuh-uh, Quinn... You left your light switch on even during that conversation -- you were "beaming"!

10:54 PM  
Blogger houseband00 said...

hey quinn,

will be leaving for a while. thanks for inspiring me to blog. =)

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We, too, have a vintage house with a vintage kitchen. In fact, we took it from vintage 1950s to 1930-ish on purpose. The second owners of the house left their vintage Tappan oven in the basement (a canning stove). We brought that up after kicking the Y2K oven out. That Tappan weighs a ton. I love cooking with it, although I'd never get a 20 lb. turkey in there. I don't even mind (much) that it isn't self-cleaning. As far as the cooktop, the fact that it has burner covers that hide most of the messiest mess (and stow away in the side doors when not needed) is a real plus. Those folks knew how to design things!

12:08 PM  

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