I try hard to ignore it, mostly. But there are plenty of times — I’ll be scrabbling for someplace to stuff the groceries, or wishing that I had more than a square foot of counter space to chop the veggies for dinner — when I turn to it, fuming.
“Okay,” I shout, smoke shooting out of my ears. “I’ve had it. You’re outta here!”
And it just stares coolly back at me. Because it knows. Sooner or later a guest will come over, and. . . .
“Oh, wow!” they’ll gasp, their eyes shooting sparks of envy. “You have a fireplace in the kitchen! That is just. So. Fabulous. You are so lucky!”
I have to tell you, this really steams me. I mean, what do they see in this pile of bricks? What’s the big deal about a fireplace in the kitchen?
We have — count ’em — four other fireplaces in our Georgetown rowhouse. But nobody walks into my living room, even when we have a lovely fire crackling in the elegant hearth, and gets all hot and bothered at the sight.
Let them set one foot in the kitchen, though, and their passion for the behemoth — solid brick, five feet wide, 10 feet high, in a kitchen just 12 feet square; oh, think of the lost cabinet and counter space! — flares up instantaneously. The monster doesn’t even have to be lit. They just see it squatting there, and something gets their blood racing — some atavistic cave-dweller memory, or nostalgia for cooking over an open flame, or visions of hunkering, snowbound, before a warming fire. Heck if I know.
And when the thing is lit, forget it. You know how people congregate in the kitchen at parties? Well. For our office holiday get-together, my husband always starts the kitchen fire — after an endless struggle to get enough of a draft going so that the thing stops billowing smoke into every room, that is. (The chimney sweeps say the stack is too short. It’s a malformed monster, on top of everything.)
I would just leave it alone, even though nobody swoons over a blazing fire like I do. Well, maybe my husband, but he’s nearly Nixon-level loony on the subject. Even so, party day is one of only three days (besides Thanksgiving and Christmas) when we actually use the monster for what it’s meant for. Not just as a shelf for all those excess groceries that I can’t jam into the cabinets I don’t have because I have this space hog instead, lucky me.
Of course, we light the living room fire as well. And of course the living room is the site of our glorious 10-foot Christmas tree. The living room is spacious. It has plenty of seating. You’d think that everybody would crowd in there and bask in the holiday glow. But no. They’re all jammed into the minuscule kitchen, stacked like cordwood, roasting in front of that freakish fireplace.
It just burns me up.
Although, okay. I admit that once it gets going, it does provide a dazzlingly roaring blaze. And it makes the kitchen all toasty-cozy. And if you turn down the lights, it’s, well, sort of magical. . . .