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My Stove: A Love Story

One woman, one troubled appliance, and their journey to happily ever after.

By Susanna Styron
Antique stoveDan Winters

Antique stove heaven is a gem of sparkling cleanliness in notoriously rough South Central Los Angeles—close to the site where the 1992 Rodney King–inspired riots began. Family owned for 27 years, it sells and services such beautiful, immaculately restored old stoves that walking into its showroom feels akin to walking into a stove museum. I went to the office, described what I needed, and was told to go in the back and see Diamond. The back was a cavernous workroom filled with decrepit, dead, and dying stoves and parts waiting for triage. At the far end, standing at a workbench, was a strong, handsome man, deep in concentration on his work: Diamond Jones, nephew of the owner. When he turned his pale, soulful eyes on me, I was overcome with self-consciousness. But that was nothing compared with what happened when he started telling me how to clean my valves.

I stood close to Diamond as he peered at the tiny shaft, which breaks down into about 100 little pieces. (Well, it was probably six or seven, but it felt like 100.) He showed me how to deconstruct the shaft, clean it, oil it, and put it back together. Then he made me try.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I said, awed by what he had just done.

“Of course you can,” he said, soothingly.

“I’m afraid,” I whispered.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he murmured. Mind you, Diamond wasn’t flirting with me—not at all. But that didn’t stop me from going a little weak in the knees.

I returned home to New York, where my husband had been dutifully feeding our two daughters toaster-oven meals for a month. After he had disassembled the stove and managed to find a valve, he couldn’t figure out how to put the whole thing back together. He had called Dan for help, but the sight of the stove’s jumbled mess had put Dan over the edge; he had stormed out muttering obscenities.

I tried not to panic: There was work to be done, and I had to do it. Nearly paralyzed with anxiety, I took apart the first valve. Several pieces into the job, I got lost and called Diamond. He guided me through the process, and then I was off on my own, taking apart, cleaning, and reconstituting all five burner valves. It was a triumph. If I could do that, I determined, I could probably do anything. Well, except reassemble the entire appliance.

If repairing my stove could make me feel this good about myself, I thought it could have the same salutary effect on poor, beleaguered Dan. I called him and explained how he was the only one who could put the stove back together for me. The flattery worked, though the process was excruciating. I stood beside him every step of the way, praising his acumen and cheering him on as he threatened to give up. Finally, Dan put the last of the pieces back in place and lit up with pride. He was a new man.

Life with my stove went along swimmingly for several years—until the pilot light stopped working once more. I called Dan yet again to come fix it, but the appliance company told me Dan had quit. Stricken with guilt, I felt sure it was my fault. Following the inevitable post-adrenaline crash that ensued after tending to my stove, he probably couldn’t face another appliance and ended his career. Plus, he had put out the word about me; the company told me that no one on their staff could fix my stove anymore.

Read More About:Inspiration & Motivation

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