As a person who considers herself extremely blessed, I try not to covet the possessions or experiences of others. Compared to 95% of the inhabitants of this planet, I've got it pretty good. But because I'm just a empty-headed consumer who can be made to feel envy by the most innocent-looking advertisement, I found something totally impractical that I long for with every fiber of my being, mostly because I know I can't have one.
Allow me to explain by going back to the beginning, if there is such a thing in these stories.
We have a fire bowl. A dear friend who knew I wanted one gave it to my husband for his 50th birthday. Neat trick, eh? It looks pretty much like this:
Of course, we've used it for parties, sleepovers and special outdoor evening events, but not nearly as often as we should have. It takes planning to remember to have dry wood, fresh marshmallows and graham crackers on hand, to say nothing of the effort involved in keeping Hershey bars in the house for any length of time. So when the night is right for a fire, we usually have wet logs or no s'more ingredients on hand, meaning the fire bowl sits leaned against the house, cold and dry, passed over instead for family movie night with popcorn and Snuggies. Sad, isn't it?
Last year, a friend undertook a complete backyard remodel. It was amazing to watch the progress as her deck was removed and a whole new patio and walkway, complete with multiple sunning and conversation areas, were added to her lovely pool area. But the addition that captured my fancy was the propane fire pit. Edged with a tile tabletop and surrounded by extremely comfortable furniture, to me this represented the ultimate in family comfort and decadence. Here's the kind of cozy scene I'm talking about:
Does anyone know how to Photoshop a picture of me curled up on that loveseat with a cup of coffee? Because this picture just has "property of Michele Arnett" written all over it.
Instead I just contented myself with hanging out at my friend's pool all summer. Better to mooch than to covet, right?
Then, about a month ago, I was garage-sale-hopping with a friend, when I stumbled on a barely used propane fire pit for sale for $50. I was a passenger in my friend's van, which gave her first dibs on trunk space, so after she bought a fabulous overstuffed chair and ottoman, there was no room left. Also, clinging to my many years of training, I'd called to consult with Eric on the advisability of purchasing such an item. The price tag was unquestionably not the problem, (although I usually let him know if I'm planning to spend $50 in unbudgeted funds), but the fact that it was large and would need manly attention, like maintenance, refills, storage, valves, etc. made me hesitate to buy it on the spot. Eric, however, didn't answer his phone, so we left to drop off the chair and ottoman. I was sure he'd return my call soon, then I could go back, pay for it and let him pick it up later in his SUV.
Eric didn't call back until quite a bit later, and though he gave the green-light to the fire pit purchase, the people having the sale had already closed for the day. I rode back the next morning, but there was no activity and no one answered the door. Same story that afternoon as well as Sunday morning. Boy, was I feeling like an idiot for passing up that deal.
Sunday afternoon I made one more trip, and this time I found the owners at home. It seems that late that Friday afternoon, their 2 year-old slipped on the wet garage floor and broke his collarbone. Poor baby! This accident occurred only minutes after some fast-acting, decisive man with a pickup truck and extra help bought that fire pit and begrudgingly won my title of "Best Deal of the Day Not Made by Me."
For several days after, that missed opportunity was like an itch in the back of my mind - I couldn't get past the idea that I'd hesitated and lost such an excellent bargain. When I look back, I'm not sure what bothered me most: the fact that I missed out on something I didn't need and wasn't even shopping for, at a ridiculously low price; or that someone else benefited from my hesitation. But I'd almost gotten over it, until...
The following weekend found me mysteriously out at another neighborhood garage sale - who keeps making me go to those things? - and I stopped at a sale at the home of a friend. I purchased several small items from her, and as I was paying for these, I noticed a poster on the wall behind her. This poster was a simple white board, covered with photos of quite a few high-end pieces of furniture, and I realized that I recognized a few of the pieces.
Turns out, a neighbor who was having a moving sale several weeks before had not sold everything, and took advantage of this other big neighborhood sale to advertise the items she had left. I stopped by when she was having her sale several weeks prior, and she showed me her antique pieces, since that was all I was really interested in. I recognized those pieces on the poster, as well as several others I saw in her house and garage that day. One item on the poster that I hadn't seen at her home was...you guessed it...a propane fire pit!
I called the phone number on the poster and reached the lady who was moving and trying to sell all her remaining stuff. She remembered me and our antique discussion, so I launched into questions about her fire pit. She had to interrupt me to break the news that it had sold earlier that very afternoon. ARRGGHH!
How could that happen? How could I let something I had absolutely no need for slip through my fingers a second time? And she wouldn't say what she sold it for, just that she took less than $100. What a travesty! That highway robbery should have been committed by ME!
People who were witness to the great injustice I suffered - not once, but twice - shook their heads sympathetically and said completely unhelpful things, like, "It obviously just wasn't meant to be." Well, chocolate-covered cockroaches aren't mean to be, but they exist...where's the logic in the "meant to be" statement? But I gave little thought to the well-meaning comments of friends; I was busy stalking propane fire pits online.
Yes, after checking locally and finding that the moderately-priced propane fire pits look like something from a daycare playground, I became a little bit preoccupied with locating anonymous fire pit owners who were just trying to unload their high-end, mint-condition, in-the-way fire pit on ebay or craigslist. For cheap. It became a bit of an obsession.
I actually sat up very late one night reading every customer review of every moderately-priced fire pit on BizRate and Nextag. Not technical specs, mind you - that would be useless. I just wanted to know what others thought about theirs. When Eric asked me how many BTUs I thought we needed on our small deck, I didn't have an informed answer for him. But I knew I didn't want fake brick sides or an all-black unit. Those were poorly reviewed.
Not too long after, I received a nice chunk of birthday money from a couple of people (you know who you are). My first thought was that I was going to run right out and get a gas fire pit from the local DIY store. No more chasing used crap on Internet classifieds - I'd just go get a brand-new one and commence sitting next to a cozy fire, sipping Bailey's and coffee, reading and napping, looking for all the world like a photo shoot from "House Beautiful." That's how these things work, right?
But then my small, normally dormant rational side emerged from wherever it usually hides, and I was forced to think about the purchase logically. My rational side sounds a lot like Eric, and my immature side doesn't appreciate the questions that my rational side asks. My inner conversation went something like this:
Rational Me: Why do you want to buy a propane fire pit?
Immature Me: I just want it. I will use it. I have the money. You're not the boss of me.
RM: Why do you want it?
IM: It's pretty; it's trendy; my friend has one; I could have the coolest marshmallow roasts on the block with it.
RM: Do you often roast marshmallows?
IM: Not very often...
RM: But you would if you had a fire pit -?
IM: I already have a fire pit, but if I had an automatic fire pit, I'd use it more.
RM: To roast marshmallows?
IM: No, silly! I don't even like roasted marshmallows, unless they are disguised between two graham crackers and an oversized chunk of a Hershey bar. My kids would have marshmallow roasts, though. And I'd use it on cool nights to stay warm while I sit on the deck reading.
RM: Do you often sit on the deck reading?
IM: No, but I sit on the screened porch reading all the time.
RM: But you can't use a fire pit on the screened porch. Will you stop using your screened porch when you have a beautiful new fire pit?
IM: Unthinkable! I would never give up falling asleep at 11pm in my wicker chair, with a cold cup of decaf and Baileys and an open book on my chest for all the fire pits on the Internet! How dare you suggest such a thing!
RM: So, are you still planning to spend all that money on a propane fire pit?
IM: Oh, go crawl under a fat roll and leave me alone.
So I didn't get a propane fire pit. Once I had time to think it over, I don't even know where we'd put one. Our small deck has two grills, a dining table and 6 chairs; there's no extra space. We'd have to cultivate a new area out in the yard somewhere, and put down stone or pour concrete, then we'd have to plant a couple of trees and shrubs for some privacy and do some other landscaping, plus we'd need a walkway and some edging to make it easy to mow around...
Yoo-hoo, Eric! Grab some graph paper and come here, please, my sweet, brilliant, creative husband...I have a design challenge for you!