Hey there! How’s it going?
My family recently spent several evenings watching the Hogwarts wizard series Harry Potter. JK Rowling, author of the original story, excels in creating mind pictures of nostalgic thoughts in an old dude like me, as do the subsequent movies.
In one of the movies, it dawned on me that, at Hogwarts, most every room in the castle has a fireplace or two, which, regardless of what is happening in the story, whether it be gushy or gory, the scene is heightened or softened by a roaring fire on a hearth. (One of her main characters even reveals himself to Harry in the smoldering embers of a dying fire trying to come back to life.)
All this fireplace stuff reminds me of my childhood. I grew up in rural farm country in the 1950s, which means that many of the houses in which I romped and lived, including my birthplace, were heated by either natural gas or electricity. For the young adults in those days, the statement “That’s progress!” was a mantra to bolster the idea that changing with the times was an admirable progression from the past into the future. As noble a thought as that is, I believe, however, it is good to put it into proper perspective.
Thinking back of other homes from the distant past, such as my grandparents’ homes and their parents’, brothers’ and sisters’ homes, I believe I could also make a case for the statement “Progress may also be regressive in some ways.” All the old folks’ homes had hearths, and the fireplace was one of the main centers of their family lives, a by-gone feature due to progress that may bear re-evaluation. Is it possible that American families have lost vital connectivity these days since we don’t need hearths anymore?
When I came along, my Dad’s parents still lived in the very house where they raised up in their eight children on an eighty-acre farm. The family began with their first daughter, my aunt Jo, born in 1911. The central focus of the house was a huge multi-hearth fireplace with a single flew expelling smoke from three hearths through the center of the roof. Every room had its own fireplace, its own access to the heating source. My grandest memories were, after Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day meals, everyone retiring to one of the three rooms to enjoy the afternoon by one of the three fires. All those wonderful memories were solidly implanted into my being by people gathering around the hearths.
It is eye-opening that progress, as necessary as it is, may consequentially cause crucial necessities from the past to disappear–things we may forget, but, also, things necessary for humanity, and consequentially, in some way, must be replaced. The hearth stands for that replacement of such necessities, especially in family togetherness. Before my grandparents’ generation, a house without a hearth was unheard of, even in warm climates. Every house had one. They were a means of existing and surviving, and the fires on the hearth brought families to life.
So What? Should we put fireplaces back in every house as a primary source of heat? No. That’s impractical and hardly feasible. Most fireplaces now are mainly for novelty and show anyway since they are not necessary for existence. It isn’t the hearth that must be present in every home, but the positive things that hearths brought about in families in a by-gone world. The following are just some vitals I thought of that must not go away in families.
Security is one of those necessities. The positivity of warmth and shelter from a cold and oftentimes hostile outdoor environment enables and encourages family members toward a sense of security in each other. The inner strength from the by-gone fire on the hearth heightened those feelings to euphoria. So many of today’s families fail to foster children in their homes. Fathers and mothers, challenged on every side with negative experiences and unhopeful outlooks, unfortunately pass fear and distress on to their closest of kin, their kiddos. That must be changed in some way so that the kids, in adulthood, look upon their home as a refuge of strength and safety rather than a disdained place to be avoided.
Togetherness is another vital need. A common problem among families is that many are splintered and disjointed. Modern lifestyles tend to pull family members apart rather than closer together, causing people, who should be close, to be aloof from each other. A warm house is appealing and families tend to join each other around a fireplace, or a virtual facsimile thereof, because of its common draw to fellowship.
Necessity for the common good is another. In order for a fire to exist, the family had to work to get the necessary wood for fuel. My Dad said he and his brothers would get out in the cold winter with their Dad to cut firewood. Looking back on the back-breaking work that was necessary for their family to survive the winter set in motion a work ethic that enabled him and our mother to more than adequately provide for us kids. That made him feel good. We live in a time where families are entitled and our children grow up sometimes believing everything is a handout. An important principle that fathers and mothers need to instill in their children is that nothing is free. There must be sweat and toil for survival.
Love and Affection, a fireplace commodity, are as vital as the air we breathe. All of the above necessities revolve around one basic principle: Love each other. My grandparents’ families had huge struggles with each other, children and parents alike, but I realized as I got older the depth of love they had for each other. Love is a hearth principle. Sounds like ‘harsh principle’ doesn’t it? Well, sometimes love is harsh. But people around a hearth know that even if harshness happens, when they get back together, it’s not ‘harshness’ but ‘hearthness’ that rules the moment. As Apostle Paul says, “Love never fails!” (1 Corinthian 13:8)
Truer words were never spoken.
By for now!