A few months ago we decided to flee the charm and refinement of beautiful urban Philadelphia for a stint at a Quaker Boarding school in rural Iowa. We had three weeks to pack up one life, drive half-way across the country to start a new one, and find a rental in a town of 2000 where rentals on homes that couldn’t be hitched to a truck and moved when needed were relatively slim. Ultimately, the school found us a hidden gem from 1975, on a cul-de-sac near the edge of town. We signed a lease having seen nothing more than a handful of fuzzy photos and with the hope that it was both livable and surrounded neither by corn stalks nor rednecks.
After 20 hours of driving in a small Hyundai with a sassy 3 year-old we affectionately call, The Midget, we couldn’t wait to see our cul-de-sac hide-a-away. I think it’s important to note here that we do not have the best luck and our last job that came with a housing stipend involved living at a water treatment plant in Turkey. But I digress. Upon entering the split-level charmer, my initial reservations were not about the red shag carpet or wrought iron stair railings. I could live with those by choosing to call them retro. But the glowing, brown and orange oven highlighting the kitchen was nearly a deal breaker. I finally had enough counter-space in which I could exercise my Martha Stewart Skills to their fullest potential and in the midst of my vast- ok, not vast by most standards but way more vast-er than any city kitchen I’d had in the past 16 years – sat the same “Coppertone Brown” stove we’d had in our family kitchen back in 1977. A Coppertone Brown eyesore.
Being a life-long renter, I am aware that any ugly appliance can usually be camouflaged by some magnets and kid art. But not ‘Ol Coppertone Brown, as we quickly learned that within seconds of turning her on, ‘Ol Coppertone Brown would heat up like a menopausal madam in a sweat lodge. As an added bonus, if you stirred too vigorously, the burners would disconnect and you’d lose all power. I surmised if I just worked her hard enough and neglected my microwave at any cost, I’d beat her into the scrap yard. Unfortunately, Mr. Roper –our thrifty landlord had other ideas and tried to breathe new life into Coppertone Brown at every turn. That is, until the other day when Mrs. Roper finally talked some sense into him and he let the old girl go…Coppertone Brown that is, not Mrs. Roper.
On the glorious Monday before Thanksgiving, a brand-new love appeared under my carport, Alabaster Blanche – a comfortably middle of the line, Whirlpool, Freestanding Electric Range in bisque. Blanche was a long-time coming and her appearance signaled a step forward in my life, as well as my aging process. As I stood atop the stairs giggling while the men wheeled Blanche in, my husband simply nodded his head in disbelief. “You act like my mother. She would get excited about a stove like this.” While I would normally be offended by this offhand comparison to his conservative Turkish mother, I had to agree with him. There comes a time in life when a new stove is far more exciting for a woman than a shopping spree where low-slung pants will only accentuate one’s muffin-top, trendy tops will show off arm flab and heels will all be too high for one’s bad knee. I guess that time in one’s life is 117 days before her 40th birthday. Say what you will, but I see a long and beautiful ahead for Blanche and I this fine holiday season.