Cloudy, with a chance of Testosterone

I was ready for that April snowstorm. It had been a pretty boring winter. Then in a wonderful New England April Fools day prank, we had another whole winter in two days. All those folks who hadn’t had the chance to complain about the weather were happy. And the rest of us got a chance to play in the snow. Better yet, there was no electricity. My alarm clock didn’t go off. There was no T.V. There were no loud CD’s. My oldest couldn’t play his electric guitar and amplifier. While the kids moped in their rooms, mourning the loss of electricity, we did recreational snow shoveling, and snow blowing, feeling like pioneer man and woman.

Late in the day my husband rushed in.

“Close your eyes.” he said. He led me out into the driveway, and turned me around.

In front of me was a seven foot green and pink dinosaur, leering down at me.

“Do you like it?” he beamed.

But I wasn’t prepared for the testosterone storm that followed in the storm’s wake. I think I had my first inking of what of to come when I noticed that a book on chainsaws had mysteriously appeared in the dinning room Friday morning. Then, on Saturday, I had a lot of errands to do. I asked my husband if he would help. He stared at me in disbelief.

“I have to burn on Saturday.”

Anyone got some potatoes and aluminum foil? When I came home, I found a pile of wood in the middle of the snow in the backyard. My husband had on his baseball cap, his down vest, and held a toothpick in his mouth. He was sitting in a lawn chair staring intently into the fire. Occasionally he would get up, poke at bit at the fire, move some wood around at random, look intent, grunt, chew on his toothpick and sit down.

I knew my duty. I brought him a beer (and another for myself) and sat down in his lawn chair. I wondered if it would overplay my hand if I asked him to flex his muscles. And, I wondered sadly why we were both sitting outside on a chilly day when the house was warm, covered with rugs and filled with expensive electronic toys.

I realize that my husband does have a certain history with fire. There’s his camping trips, for example. Before I was married I always thought of camping as virtuous and strenuous. I pictured climbing a mountain in bare feet while guarding my stash of trail mix and freeze dryed tofo from marauding grizzlies. So I was surprised when I went camping with my husband’s extended family and spent the whole weekend sitting around a campfire. Actually, that is not all they do. They poke at the fire. They feed it more wood. They all shift chairs when the wind blows. The men chew on toothpicks. Sometimes they hold a child on their laps. Everyone cooks a lot of meat. The women bring chocolate cakes. The adults sip an occasional gin and tonic. Everyone laughs a lot, especially when my sneaker melts onto my foot after I have stood next to the fire for too long.

Then there is the toilet incident.

“Dad lit that fire in the toilet to clean it! It wasn’t me.” My oldest son told me after I wrote about it in “Guys in the Kitchen”

“I get you confused” I said.

For some reason, I was hoping that one burning session would get this out of his system. I hoped that he would be content merely to glaze upon the small spot of blackened earth around the cesspool cover, and remember. But the second weekend after the storm, he announced that he had to help his brother-in-law burn. This involved bringing his first-born son and a chainsaw. I was fortunate enough not to be present at this ritual, but I heard that several other brothers and some number of beer were also involved.

What frightens me is the nagging thought that it may not be just my husband. I told a male co-worker, who is normally a sensitive nineties type guy, about this burning business. He didn’t find any of it surprising.

“Was it your own wood, or did he go around soliciting the neighbors?” he asked. “Burning is wonderful,” he sighed, “it brings out the primeval man in us.” Then he talked for about 15 minutes about his chainsaw. I nodded and looked very interested and wondered where I could find a cold beer.

“So what has your husband been doing since he quit work?” He finally asked.

I thought about that for awhile.

“Burning things.” I realized with horror. “He says he is cleaning the cellar. What he is actually doing is smashing up all that furniture I brought at yardsales and feeding it to the woodstove. ”

My co-worker sighed again. “Does he need help?” he asked plaintively.

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