I awoke very early and listened carefully. Was anyone awake? It was early Saturday morning, early fall and suddenly I could hear the furnace firing up, a sharp, small but clear explosion followed by the spinning up of the blower before settling down to only a quiet background hum, but no evidence of human consciousness. I did not understand what sort of thing could fill the house with hot air, but I was curious about it or anything else out there in the dark. The adventure awaited me, calling gently for my prompt attention. Keenly listening for anyone else, I pushed back my covers and crept into the night.
I was already aware that new discoveries and principals that were always true or false were things of interest and should be proven and memorized. Don’t laugh, but I well recall one day when, as a soaking wet kid child, fresh from the shower and having forgotten to grab a towel, I dripped my way down the hall to the linen closet. I saw my favorite towel back behind a stack of wash cloths and reached in to grab my towel. I dragged my arm across the wash clothes and paused to contemplate what happened. My arm was dry where-ever I touched the wash clothes. Ah – something new! Wash clothes had only been useful when soaking wet with a bar of soap nearby. But how? I compared the nearly dry wash cloth to my towel and -who knew!? They were made of the same stuff – how cool is that!
Mom was not pleased later when she discovered a badly folded, pretty wet towel in the linen closet and most of the wash cloths missing only to be located in my hamper soaking wet for having been re-tasked as small towels for my full experiment, which I’m proud to say, worked. “Okay – okay Mom. I won’t do it again. . . ” How could she not see how important this discovery was? Perhaps, next time, I’ll use one wash cloth to mob up that water trail I left from shower to closet to my room. I’ll bet that was how she knew it was me. . .
Anyway, I was maybe 5 years old when this memory began. I have few from this age but it remains as real today as any other. I could not have explained it at the time, but I was driven to explore things on the edge of where familiarity became fear. For a 5 year old, my own home that I knew only by day, but now nearly pitch black, would suffice. With no flashlight or candle, but only ambient light from the partial moon coming in through the closed drapes, my home had become a place I did not know. So I spent perhaps an hour in my PJs exploring darkened corners away from the large living room window, trying to be as silent as possible until I found something worth finding.
The game was still new when I discovered that something. This morning, I had grabbed a small blanket as a cape for warmth as the heater was beginning its cycle to push back the cool fall air. I had made my way down the darkened hall that my imagination has elongated and creep-ified, almost mastering but not quite perfecting where to step on each part of the wood flooring so no creaking sound would give away my game. I had verified that all was well in the entry and behind the kitchen door. The dining and living rooms were too light to be exciting but I checked them anyway which brought me full circle back to – the hallway. I knew better than to prowl through my parents room and the room that one day soon would go to my sisters was boring. Prowling back to my own room would completely defeat the game so I turned to consider my options.
As I pulled the blanket cape closer around my neck, the heater vent made its presence know with a quiet blast of wonderfully warm air. There was a large TV cabinet about 2 feet away from the heater wall vent and this become one of my first brainstorms.
I could sit with my back to the TV cabinet and hold the edges of the blanket down with my arm and toes to make a near-perfect seal around the heater vent with just my head sticking out of – YES – my own personal sauna. Thus began a near-daily ritual that lasted well through the arrival of both sisters who tried, but usually failed to get up before me to claim this one perfect spot for enjoying that heater vent.
Later, when I was tall enough, I made my parents nuts by snuggling down with that vent until the thermostat toggled the heater to “off”. Then I would stand up, wrap the blanket around me and sneak around the corner and down the hall a few steps to the thermostat control and reach up to nudge the setting a bit higher so the heater would bounce right back on.
By the time I had every room in the house smoldering in the mid 80 degrees Fahrenheit, one of my parents would wake up, drenched in sweat and realize that I was again trying again to drive them from the house with a near run-away heater setting and come out to break the magic and comfort of sleeping by that vent. I was normally by this time nearly comatose and on the edge of heatstroke in front of that vent.
One of them would correct the setting of the the thermostat, gather me and my blanket up and carry me back to my room – again. I would be only distantly aware of being moved and later woke up, safely in my own bed, with a normal body temperature and wondering if it had all really happened.
It must have because I knew that I knew something about that furnace and how to focus its power into creating a private luxurious sauna. I must be a genius because only a genius could have discovered something this great.