Another Perspective

Cold Day

When turning up the heat doesn't do the trick.

By 1.19.04

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Today is a cold day. Matter of emphasis here. Of course it's a cold day, in the conventional sense, at eight degrees below zero. Single syllable temperatures predicted for the whole day. That kind of "cold day" is pronounced, "Cold day," with almost equal stress on each syllable, taking a modest pause between. "Pipe to the spirit ditties of cold day." Like that.

But this is also a "COLD day," with the same pronunciation as "SNOW day." Explain to me why schools in Massachusetts, statewide, have closed for the cold. Okay, specific schools, if pipes freeze, I can understand that. But all schools? All day? This is Massachusetts. It gets cold here. They haven't closed the schools in Montreal or Montpelier or Manchester, so far as I've heard, all far to our north and far colder.

Maybe there's something in the bitter suspicion that Mass teachers just wanted a four-day weekend, with the MLK holiday coming up Monday.

The boys are home. Once again I contemplate the mysteries of male sibling rivalry. If these guys really don't like each other, and it often seems that they don't, why do they so stubbornly start to play together, over and over? It ends in screaming and tears, especially first thing in the morning.

And why don't children ever believe they're hungry? Breakfast -- home-made bran muffins for a treat -- calms things down marvelously, at least for now. For now, the boys have settled around the wood stove, its firebox jammed lumpily full of good wood, glowing orange-hot, with the wind making the same sound over the rim of the chimney that an empty soda bottle makes when you blow across it. Bud plays his GameBoy, Joe twists his Transformers into illegitimate shapes, periodically breaking off a piece that I have to restore -- teeny, tiny little plastic joins that challenge an old man's farsighted eyes and non-too-steady hands.

Until 10:00, I manage to keep the guys off TV. I periodically threaten them, "I'm going to go to comcast-dot-net and program our TV so it gets nothing but golf." So far, I have not done that. Joe succumbs first this morning, with his usual frustrations at scheduled programming. "I don't want this, I want 'Ed, Edd & Eddy.'" "Joe, 'Ed, Edd & Eddy' doesn't come on now." "I don' WANT this!"

The kind of impulse that led to the creation of Tivo.

Our VCR has also packed it in -- the old one, the one I know how to operate. The new one, a combined VCR and DVD player (where did all these letters come from?), requires "programming" to use properly. It "reads" the channels from the television to which it is connected. If you use the television and select channels with the television's remote control, it wipes out the new VCR/DVD's memory of what went on before. You have to re-set the whole thing. So far, only Sally has figured out how to do this.

Once again, aging farsightedness figures in. The new device came with a vast remote control, labeled in microscopic print, and an owner's manual full of instructions requiring full-on high-tech exegesis. "Use +/- to SELECT." It requires reading glasses and good light even to try to figure something out, and then I have to keep ripping the glasses off to look at the TV screen, where even more abstract diagrams and forms appear, taunting me to fill them out.

Joe has begun to enjoy the Phonics Game, and has made marvelous progress in his first two days. Ah, but that probably requires a videotape to charm him into playing, and that video has snagged in the old VCR, and the VCR repairman, though only a mile away, is OUT THERE, and it is eight below zero out there.

We will survive. We always do. We have plenty of food. We have plenty of milk. We have plenty of toilet paper. We have lots of coffee, and lots of cigars.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.