Sitting down on a two-inch memory foam mattress pad that has cooled to 35 degrees is like sitting down on a frozen two-inch plank. Going to bed on the same mattress pad after it has warmed up to about 50 degrees is more like trying to cuddle up to a sweetheart who has just discovered that for years you’ve been hiding a secret stash of really good chocolate. There’s a little bit of thawing when you get close, but not much.
After a minute or two, the mattress pad slowly starts to regain its frozen memory and shape itself to your shivering form. As it does, it sucks the warmth out of your body like an ice vampire trying to protect itself from global warming. You’d better have a couple of extra quilts and a furry St. Bernard to snuggle with—or at least a friendly spouse, preferably with warm feet.
This bit of research into the effects of subzero weather on an unheated house was inadvertent. After a two-day drive from New Mexico, following a day behind a winter storm so we missed the blizzard but not the cold, we walked into our house to find it at 35 degrees. It was the first time I remember being able to see my breath in my own living room.
Yes, we had turned the furnace down when we left, but not that much. The propane tank was empty. Our fuel supplier has always kept it filled automatically. This year, the combination of a mild early winter and our new energy-efficient furnace had kept us from worrying about the fact that the guy and his truck hadn’t shown up since September.
Fires in the downstairs wood stove and the upstairs fireplace soon warmed the house to a relatively balmy 37 degrees. Meanwhile, we kept ourselves warm by shoveling snow. We were quite comfortable, except for fingers and toes, by the time the propane truck rolled down the newly cleared driveway an hour or so later.
As he waited for 400-plus gallons of propane to pour into our tank, the delivery guy had plenty of time to explain that AmeriGas had upgraded to a new nationwide computer system. Apparently, our automatic delivery hadn’t been made because our address had failed to get into the system. I’m sure, after his emergency trip in the dark on a frigid Sunday evening, he’ll personally type it in and double-check to make sure it’s been saved.
By morning, our memory foam pad felt like a bed instead of a plank. Even so, leaving it wasn’t hard, because we were able to get up to a warm house. With warm and grateful hearts, too. None of our pipes had frozen, so what could have been an expensive mess was merely a chilly inconvenience.
Several days later, the only casualty from the cold appears to be my African violet. It’s a plant that a friend gave me in 1987. Since then, as long as it’s in an east window, it has bloomed almost constantly, brightening my office all winter with its pink-violet blossoms. Now it’s a sad spectacle of wilting flowers and dying leaves.
But I haven’t given up on it yet. If I trim back all the dead foliage and leave the roots alone for a while, tiny new leaves might eventually emerge. Even if they don’t, all is not lost. Over the years, I’ve used cuttings from this violet to start plants for several family members and friends. It has alternative selves all over the place, so I can easily start it again.
And that makes me feel warm all over.