Fireside Chats

Husband and I escaped to Skiland for the weekend once again on Saturday, as he had planned to go snow machining with his uncle and a work colleague/friend. I thought it would be worthwhile to go up to the house with him anyway and spend the day doing some work on the computer while they were out. But alas, upon unpacking our overnight things, he realized that his computer bag was still sitting on a chair back in town.

Typical.

I could have been annoyed, but then figured that there’s a reason why I travel armed with an iPod and a Kindle and a notebook at all times. But when his friend showed up with his girlfriend (who is an avid snow machining woman herself), she had decided that she was up for vegetating as well.

While the boys were out riding, we talked. For hours. About lots of things. Occasionally I would stoke the fire, throw on another log, and then return to listening and chatting. Where did the time go? She also had her electronic weapons and didn’t even come close to touching them — except to show me a picture of something on her iPad — the whole time.

After dinner that evening, Husband and I debated: watch a movie in the basement or fall asleep by the fire instead? Another easy decision. We read and talked ourselves to sleep instead of listening to the white noise of a familiar movie.

Obviously, in the winter-trying-to-be-spring here, a fire provides much-needed warmth and light. But I think FDR’s press people had it right when they came up with the phrase “fireside chats” for his radio addresses to the nation, because fires seem to invite a unique kind of intimacy, a sort of return to our primal roots, when we sit around or near them. There is a coziness and comfort there that sound coming from a screen — of any kind — cannot provide.

So just in case our next living space doesn’t have a fireplace, I’m wondering how to re-create that kind of close feeling on a regular basis. Is it as simple as turning off the television and the devices and being willing to sometimes sit in silence with another person? Or is it more a matter of being in a mutual, fully present, fully listening mindset? Probably a combination of both, in order to allow ourselves to have the quiet space that can give us room to be less guarded and more vulnerable.

FDR delivered 30 fireside chats between 1933 and 1944. He meant to encourage the nation during a difficult time in American history; he wanted to reassure the people and remind them to be hopeful in spite of the Great Depression and WWII. While I don’t think my future fireside chats will weigh as heavily on this country’s morale, I do think they will likely be moments of hope and connection with people I care about.

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