Fiery furnace, or not

I really missed my husband during his 10-day visit to our son’s house in Michigan. I missed him because the temperature dipped and I could not figure out how to pry the front off the furnace to light the pilot.
I added a blanket and slept snugly in my bed.
Once he returned, he did not think about lighting the furnace until the temperature again dipped near freezing. Confidently, he reached for the matches. He knew how to pry open the cover and light that furnace. He had been doing it for years.
Well, my in-house repairman may have known how to light a pilot, but not that one. Not this year. It did not respond to anything he tried.
“It looks like it has a lot of debris in there. You should vacuum it out,” I said.
He vacuumed. It did not light.
I tried. I have, after all, lit a pilot light or two in my life.
It did not light.
“There is something wrong with it. I’m going to bed,” I said, grabbing an extra blanket and nestling down in our bed.
He kept trying to light the furnace. He tried until I woke up at 11:30 p.m. and said, “Stop already. There is something wrong.”
He quit, but very reluctantly. The next day he concluded it needed a a new thermocouple. He bought and installed one.
The neighbor, a former employee with the gas company, happened to be in the house for the test run. He watched as my fixer-upper lit a match and held it out to the pilot. It whooshed loudly as it lit.
“Sounds like something is still wrong. Maybe the pilot needs to be closer?” the neighbor suggested. It concerned him enough that he told us that in the middle of the night he sprang from his bed to see if anything was the matter at our house.
We were fine, just fine, that night and the next couple of weeks. We could feel the digitally-programmed thermostat warming the house each morning.
And then the house felt cold again. I tossed another blanket on the bed and decided to try resetting the thermostat if the chill continued. Around 2 a.m., half awake, I heard a noise, like someone slamming the front door.
Laying there in the silence that followed, I calmed my fears until I decided no one had come into the house. I crept out of bed and went down the hall to the large cupboard holding the furnace. The doors had popped open.
I smelled gas.
Something more needed to be done with the furnace, but not at 2:30 a.m. I turned off the furnace and grabbed a book to read.
My husband came wandering out around 5 a.m. “There is something wrong with the furnace.” I told  him about the loud noise, the popped doors and the gas smell.
Once the sun started warming the house, he called a furnace repair company.
The repairman came, heard his story and began looking at the furnace with eyes trained to see the glitches we could not see.
“Your heat exchanger has holes. This is a 30-year-old furnace. I’d say you got your money’s worth out of it.” He began taking parts off the furnace, saying, “I can’t let you use it anymore.”
My husband ordered a furnace.
He told me the price. He told me it would be energy efficient and save us money on our fuel bills this winter.
“Save us enough to pay for the furnace?” I teased, and then said, “I guess we know what we are getting each other for Christmas this year.”
The men came last week and installed the whole furnace in less time than we spent trying to light the old one.
They left the instruction manual, which included a schematic of how the furnace works. “Look at this thing,” my husband said as he held out the blueprints for me to see. It did look complicated.
“There is no way I could ever think about repairing that,” he said.
The furnace works great. Really great. A warm house on a cold wintry day – that’s the best present ever.
So come Christmas Eve, you will find the two of us settling our brains for a long winter’s nap in a cozy, warm house with no more visions of explosions in the middle of the night dancing in our heads.
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.