Vacuum Cleaner Heat


Is there one thing from childhood that stands out in your mind? The thing that’s still comforting, that makes you feel good just thinking about it? The thing that every now and then something, somewhere triggers a wave of fond memories of? For me that could very well be vacuum cleaner heat!

What is vacuum cleaner heat, one might ask? Well let me explain.

When I was a little kid growing up on Stennis Street in Newton — for some reason it is Stennis Ave. now, but I assure you it was Stennis Street when I was growing up — my buddies and I would, after a long day’s play outside, build a fort inside where we could bed down for the night. One of those fancy kinds of forts, you know, made with sheets and blankets draped over dining room chairs in the living room. On special occasions we might step it up a notch or two with a cardboard toilet paper box, which was easy to acquire from the A&P Grocery, since my brothers and I basically grew up in the A&P where both my parents were employed. That is a story for another day, if not a book one day. Chapter one is in the works. Stay tuned!

Anyway, back to vacuum cleaner heat. After we’d get our fancy fort built, pulled in the bedding and pillows, and made sure the door was open in the direction of the television set, we’d go drag out the old green and white canister vacuum cleaner. It would get positioned to the right of the fort, between the rocking chair and an end table that my mom called a commode.

I’m not certain why the end table was called a commode, but in the 60s and 70s reproduction furniture was often supposed to look like something else when it never really did. I think this was a commode because it just had two big drawers that could hold pee pots and the like for royalty. That’s just a guess, because we didn’t know back then we were royals. Another story, another day.

Once the vacuum cleaner was in place the exhaust side of the canister would be directed into the fort and when the machine was turned on our makeshift bedroom was instantly heated and thus the name vacuum cleaner heat. To this day I still refer to the perfect mix of just-right warm air as vacuum cleaner heat. It not only gives me a warm feeling on the outside it gives me a warm feeling on the inside as well. I have very fond memories of vacuum cleaner heat, and forts, and those childhood years.

Sometimes in the winter, my wife, Danny, and I will be driving down the road and if it’s one of those not-too-cold, not-too-hot, kind of Mississippi days I’ll flick on a little heat and when set just right I’ll tell her that’s vacuum cleaner heat. It feels so good, again inside and out, but if I’m driving I can’t have it on for too long because it makes me so comfortable that I become drowsy, and that’s not a good thing when behind the steering wheel.

Recently I picked up a tall space heater at a local store and placed it on my side of the bed in our big, old, drafty house in Sebastopol. On those colder December nights I would fall asleep quickly as the fan-forced air drifted over me. I told Danny that I sleep really good with that heater blowing in my face. You know why? Because it feels like vacuum cleaner heat. It is comforting.

I’ve also got a little heater in my office and on the coldest of cold days before the sun gets up good, and the central unit has time to warm up the office, I flick it on. It is tucked up under my desk and reminds me of my childhood, of those forts, and of course, vacuum cleaner heat.

Sometimes I wish I could crawl up under that desk, curl up with a pillow, and turn on Captain Kangaroo, or The Wonderful World of Disney, or perhaps The Flintstones, The Jetsons or one of those other clean, fun, happy-place cartoons of my youth.

As we begin this new year, the year 2020, there will be plenty of negative, sorry, sad, and sometimes unfathomable events that make the news which we will all have to deal with, and deal with them we shall. But, there will also be the good, the positive, even the miraculous. Let’s look forward to the latter. Let’s look for the vacuum cleaner heat. I promise you it is good for the soul.

Have a very happy New Year!