August 28, 2014

Getting Emotionally Attached to an Appliance

Some people have pets – dogs, cats, horses even iguanas and sometimes rocks – but Colleen Anderson seems to view her stove as almost a part of the family. She wrote about it for West Virginia Public Broadcasting:

In my twenties, I bought my first kitchen stove, used, from an elderly woman who advertised it in the classifieds. I loved the petite size of it: Twenty inches wide, with four gas burners and two narrow oven racks. It was perfectly adequate for any cooking project I could contemplate at that age.

And I loved its name, Vesta, so called for the Roman goddess of fire and the hearth, who inspired a cult of followers to take vows of chastity and live together in a temple. I was single and unattached at the time, so Vesta and I went to housekeeping together.

We’re still together. Like me, the stove is a bit the worse for wear. One of the metal burner grates is broken in half, and there are some rust spots on the oven and broiler door handles. And, at some point, about 20 years into our association, Vesta developed the mechanical equivalent of hardening of the arteries. Her pilot lights began to gum up.

The repair guy said, “You know, I could just turn those things off. You’ll have to light the burners with a match, but you’ll save gas.” So I keep a pack of kitchen matches nearby.

Like me, she’s still cookin’. I can’t begin to count the saucepans of oatmeal and pots of soup that have bubbled on those burners. The Vesta has turned out cookies and casseroles and, last Thanksgiving, a twenty-seven-pound turkey, although I did have to bend the handles of the roasting pan to get the oven door shut.

Lots of people name their cars and get attached to them, but I don’t think I know anyone else whose kitchen stove has become so dear that they think of it as animate. And, yet, when an appliance serves well and faithfully, without complaint, for so many years, shouldn’t it be rewarded with something like affection?

My Vesta has outlasted a marriage and at least seven vehicles. I can’t imagine buying a new stove. That would be like betraying her.

So here’s my plan: When the time comes to leave home and move into assisted living, I’ll take out a classified ad, “Small used cookstove for sale.” But I won’t sell it to just anybody. Not my Vesta. I want her to have a good home.