I toyed with the idea of getting my mother a Snuggie for Christmas.
If you've not seen these - perhaps you don't watch television - they are big cuddly blankets, with sleeves, designed for lounging and keeping warm.
"That's cheesy," my husband remarked.
I didn't think so.
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Keeping warm at our house, growing up, was always an active pursuit.
We heated with a woodstove only, and my room was the farthest point in the house from the stove. You would think that the desire to gravitate toward the source of heat would contribute to family togetherness in the winter months, but as a stubborn teenager I was determined to maintain my privacy in spite of being able to see my own breath while lounging on my bed.
I would have loved a Snuggie.
The woodstove represented, to me, our family's stubborn refusal to embrace modern conveniences like central heating and cable television.
Perhaps my parents were nostalgic for their own childhoods with outhouses and water dippers. I wanted none of it. I wanted to traipse casually to a thermostat and crank it up a couple of notches rather than trudging through the snow to the woodshed to gather a mix of green and dry wood and kindling.
I didn't want to save newspapers in a stack on the hearth so that we could tear them into strips to get the fire going. To this day, the sound of ripping paper makes me shiver a bit.
While they always embraced hard work themselves, my parents took a laissez-faire attitude toward developing a work ethic in my brother and me.
I think mom viewed her own childhood as worthwhile but not very child-like; she was priming tobacco before she reached school age and preparing meals on the wood cook-stove by the time she was 8 years old.
I viewed this kind of existence with horror and reluctantly helped out with the little manual labor she reluctantly asked me to do.
Even when, in high school, I discussed finding an after-school job, she advised that I enjoy my friends and athletics while I was still young.
"You'll have the rest of your life to work," she said.
Even in my reluctance and teenage seclusion, though, there was a desire to become proficient at hardy activities like building a fire and splitting the wood for it.
I admired my mother and secretly suspected that her strong will had been born in the striking of a thousand matches and the tying of a hundred thousand tobacco leaves.
One winter when my parents were away for a week, I thought my brother and I would freeze to death.
I came home from school and tried to start a fire in the woodstove.
No matter how much newspaper I stuffed under the grate, I could not get the fire to catch.
When Brian arrived home, he found me in tears over a stack of spent matches. Somehow we managed, together, to get the fire started.
Determined to enjoy the fruits of our labor, I remained standing in front of the woodstove and talking to Brian for the rest of the afternoon.
This year, I decided not to get my mother a Snuggie after all, not because of my husband's remark, but because my mother never sits still long enough to enjoy one.
She is retired and a grandmother now. She has added a propane heater to supplement the wood stove, but she still builds a fire twice a day in winter.
She doesn't watch enough television to know what a Snuggie is.
That which we struggle so hard to escape often becomes, in later years, the foundation of our character and the stuff of pleasant memories.
Now, instead of resenting what I once viewed as my mother's needless industry, I admire her tenacity.
I wish I had insisted on the foundation of physical labor that built her character.
I don't want to go back to heating with a wood stove, but I'm glad we did it that way once upon a time.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to crank up the thermostat.