Over My Dead Body…
…Is what my mom said when Patty Smyth—the singer/songwriter aptly known for "Goodbye to You"—attempted to repo our stove.
You see, the coastal Brooklyn house my mom bought in 1976 had long been a second home to Patty, whose stepmother, Cookie, had grown up there. The stove that came with the place was indeed a beauty: the same vintage Chambers model Rach used to have on her set, except ours was powder blue, not yellow.
Every once in a while Patty would swing by the house to see how the stove was doing. Well, to say hi to the family, too, but mostly to make sure her cherished heirloom was still around.
Once, when I was in college, my mom called me and said, "John is here and wants the stove."
Me: "John who?"
Mom: "Johnny Mac."
Mom: "Yeah—and I told him over my dead body."
Yes, she summarily shot down the era's most famous tennis player—who also happened to be Patty's husband.
My mother loved that stove. Never mind that we had to light the burners with a match. Or that the oven wasn't spacious enough to hold a decent turkey (sort of crucial when you host Thanksgiving every year). Or that the merest breeze would kill the pilot light along with the burners, and we'd have to wait at least 30 minutes before turning the gas back on—or risk getting blown off our feet by a gas surge (believe me, I know from personal experience).
Despite all the stove's shortcomings, her love for it was unflinching, no matter how much her culinary-minded children pleaded for an upgrade. After all, this stove had been her trusty sidekick throughout her adult life. Those burners heated the first meal she made as a homeowner—and the water for my first bottle. That oven helped us celebrate every conceivable family milestone—and achievement, big or small.
But after this 36-year love affair, everything changed in an instant: The night Sandy hit, five feet of water swallowed the stove whole.
You know the rest of this story by now—about the devastation and loss that reached far and wide. And while the household essentials were comparatively minor casualties, my mother couldn't bear to part with the stove. She often said it had a soul; the prospect of discarding such a beloved being broke her heart.
Now, even after her herculean mold-, rust-, grime- and debris-removal efforts, the poor thing is still "resting" outside while we search for ever more advanced resurrection methods.
In its place sits a shiny new oven big enough to hold a 40-pound turkey—much to her children's delight. But somehow, mom hasn't quite gotten used to the idea that knobs alone can fire up burners. No matches required.
Patty did stop by the house after Sandy to make sure we were okay. And of course, to check on the Chambers. She was saddened by its streaks and corroded innards, but relieved it was still there.
I've urged my mother to pay it…backward and relinquish the stove to Patty. And you know what? Mom's almost there. But I have a feeling that "almost" could last for a while.
Written by Chris Jette, Meredith senior marketing manager