Our house has four fireplaces.
They’re all the original Victorian fireplaces and they’re for decoration only. They’re blocked off, which makes me sad. I would love a cozy fire!
In the homeschool room (actually a dining room) the fireplace had this hideous strip of hot pink foam board about six inches wide and the length of the fireplace stuffed across the chimney hole where the smoke would go up, blocking it closed.
You could see the pink foam board if you sit down anywhere in the room. It was so ugly and I hated staring at it! I’m trying to create a homeschool room with nice atmosphere and that hot pink board was driving me crazy.
Clearly it couldn’t stay there in my pretty fireplace.
I will just pop it out and replace it with a strip of cardboard from a moving box, I thought. We have plenty of thick moving boxes. That won’t stand out like hot pink!
It will be simple, I thought.
I sat down in front of the fireplace and gave that ugly pink board a little tug.
It popped right out, no problem. It was just a thin flimsy piece of foam board.
I tossed it aside and peered up into the chimney, out of curiosity.
I’m still not exactly sure what happened. Either I breathed too much into the chimney, or there was some kind of secret air vacuum created by removing that foam board, or…I just…have no clue.
As I was peering upward merrily exploring the interior of a 1903 Victorian fireplace an entire mountain of ashes exploded from the chimney all over me, all over the room, in a cloud of unforgiving black creosote and soot.
There was a moment of silence during which I was confused, and then I was stunned when I realized what had happened.
Does this chimney not follow the laws of physics? How was this worn, flappy piece of foam board holding in 110 years of ash?
DID THESE PEOPLE NEVER CLEAN OUT THEIR CHIMNEY BETWEEN 1903 AND 2014?!?
I coughed and backed away. It took a full five minutes for the air to clear enough to even see the fireplace.
Have you ever seen that episode of Call the Midwife where a chimney rains ashes all over the entire room in the middle of a birth? (I looked for it on YouTube to put here, but I couldn’t find it.) It was exactly like that scene, except I wasn’t giving birth thankfully.
I didn’t know what to do.
How do you proceed when a literal ton of ashes has just exploded into your house?
I picked up a small flower pot sitting nearby and began pitifully scooping ashes into it. Ok that was like trying to drain a lake with a bucket…
I left footprints through the house as I ran into the kitchen to get the trash can. I put a big black garbage bag in it, the outdoor kind, and carried it into the homeschool room to the scene of the disaster.
I spent a considerable amount of time scooping up ashes into this tiny flower pot and dumping them in the trash can. Then I tried to vacuum some up, but my vacuum cleaner hopelessly clogged in under a minute.
Eventually I uncovered the floor around the fireplace. An end was in sight!
Another silent gush of ashes rained down without warning, just as much as the first time.
I had visions of my dead body being forever preserved in the homeschool room on the floor, like one of the people who died at Pompeii.
Is this actually happening?
Am I in a remake of I Love Lucy? I wondered
I scooped ashes until the big black trash bag was full to the top. Then, leaving a thin coating of ashes in the room, I scooped up my (now black) baby and trailed upstairs to the claw foot tub for some emergency bathing.
I have to finish cleaning up the ashes in that room tonight after the kids go to sleep because the piano movers are bringing our piano from the cabin at 9 in the morning tomorrow. Where they are putting it is currently the site of a volcanic eruption. I think there’s even ash on the ridiculously high Victorian ceiling.