Let the Heating Wars Begin

By Esther C. Baird/
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript October 24, 2013

Boxford Topsfield Middleton —
Oh, New England. You plague me so. Just when things get lovely, just when I think there is no place this beautiful, just when walking Blue Ears becomes magical and not full body combat against bugs . . . it gets cold.
Don’t go and get your L.L. Bean long johns in a knot, I don’t mean like winter cold. I don’t mean frozen drifts trapping me in my house cold, or the torturous packing of an extra bag of snow gear to go to school each day with the girls cold.

But that’s the problem. It’s cold, just not cold enough . . . to turn on the heat.

All this stoic Bostonian, wicked layered, nonsense makes me cranky. Why? Because I’m cold! Why do so many of you arbitrarily set November 1st as the day on which you will finally enjoy the inside of your home again? Our minivans, dear parental chauffeurs of the Tri-Towns, are not actually meant to be the only warm place in our lives.
I just want to take the edge off. I am tired of wearing wool socks, pants, two shirts a down vest, and slippers with a heating pad on my lap just so I can type this column.

I’ve polled my friends and there are a few who turn the heat on immediately with no regrets. They are the smart ones. The southern transplants who never claimed to be made of sterner stuff. Y’all are laughing at us, and rightfully so.
But most of you are resolute. Come what may, the heat stays off through October. I know we still get warm wonder days in the 70s. But, hellooo, who remembers the blizzard we had two Octobers ago?

The irony is, as Regular Readers may recall, I grew up in a house that was built before our country was a country. It was an old farm house with zero heat. My parents dressed me in a bear suit. That’s right, a bear suit. It had a furry hood and ears and was made of a 1970s synthetic fur that was anything but breathable. It was like wearing a shaggy trash bag. I slowly cooked from the inside out and roasted my way through the dog’s frozen water bowls, chimney fires in our wood burning stove, and a pre-revolutionary concept of heat smack in the middle of suburban America.
As a part bear, part homesteader, I was never cold. This carried through into college when I forced my poor roommate to sleep (in our Chicago dorm room) with the windows cracked so that we awoke with a sheen of ice on our pillows from our frozen breath.

I loved it.

And now, for reasons beyond me (ok, I think the reason is that I’m getting old), now when I live in a place where it would be so handy, so cost effective, so much more comfortable to be my own baking bear potato, I am the first person to get cold.

My roommate, who was clearly traumatized by our collegial tundra existence, responded to my recent online complaint about being cold with a supportive, “Ha ha. Consider this is payback!”

Fair enough.

Thankfully, here at Casa Baird we took a little break from all this chilly uncertainty and headed to Miami for the long Columbus Day weekend. For four days we actually begged for air conditioning, we wanted ice in our drinks, and the thought of jeans made us feel prickly.

All the while the heat was off here in Boxford. So when we returned, at 1 a.m. with sleep deprived children and a house that felt like a meat locker, I gave up.
“I’m turning the heat on!” I announced. Short of issuing bear suits for the family, it was the only reasonable thing to do.

So we’ve caved during the nights. You may frown from beneath the wool hat that you’re wearing inside your house, but I’m not cranky anymore. I’m wicked waahm.

Esther Baird is a writer who lives in Boxford. For ideas, comments or questions please send her an email at