Tuesday, April 15, 2008

C'mon baby, light my fire

It seems that my life has been shaped by fire. Forged from the flames, you might say. My first house fire was when I was nine months old. Mother could only save herself and me. Everything else was lost. Of course, it was a trailer, (yeah, my house burned down to its axles!) so it wasn't too much, but it was all my parents had. Daddy brought another trailer and set it in the same spot. At 18 years old, with a 17 year old wife and new baby, the fact that he had two acres to set a trailer on is impressive to me.

We lived happily here, our little family. One of my most vivid memories is of coming up the driveway from school, the daffodils in bloom, and Mother in the doorway waiting. This was when you could still walk home from the bus stop alone. This changed in the second grade when I came home from school and found a smoldering heap of ash where home had been. Thankfully, Mother had been at the store with my baby brother when the propane tanks exploded. So once again, all pictures, clothes, toys, mementos were gone.

Daddy built a beautiful home in its place. A huge, rambling, six bedroom home with large rooms and a rec room we could run laps in. Being a builder by trade, he designed and built it himself. Here is where I grew up. Where I had pool parties, learned to love to garden (somebody had to take care of that huge yard) and was happy. Until my junior year.

My best friend was staying the weekend. The parents had gone to bed. When we tidied up the living room before going downstairs, we tossed the pizza boxes into the fireplace. The embers were still hot. When Mother woke us to tell us to get out, the house was filled with smoke, we chose to disregard her warning. We didn't smell any smoke. And we were sleepy. When she came back the second time and she smelled like smoke from carrying things out of the upstairs, we listened. Guess what I saved? Out of everything in my room I could have grabbed? My leather pants. This was 1983, people. We rebuilt and I lived there until I didn't.

Once I moved away from home, I had a series of apartments. I found a house that I absolutely loved! It looked a bit like Bates Manor, looming up on a hillside. I rented the house (rent to own, holla!) and moved my little family in. The Dude was 7, Apples 5 and SweetieDarling was 2. They had their own rooms and a yard. My favorite part? Laundry room, upstairs, where it should be. We lived there not quite a year before the fire. The dryer malfunctioned and ignited the clothes. While not a total loss, it was enough. We were all safe, but it was hard explaining to the children that their toys were gone. I knew I could replace my things, but to them, gone is gone forever.

When I went to college, I lived on campus and the children stayed with Mother. You're thinking, dorms, pretty safe, mostly fireproof, right? Well, right you are, but I still managed to burn my truck up. Just driving down the road and poof! Caught on fire. You'd think someone with my history would have a fire extinguisher. You'd be wrong. Total loss.

After Him and I married and bought our home, we remodeled it. Gutted it and started over, bones out. Every precaution was taken. No expense was spared to make this one safe. Nothing's fireproof, but it's close. I was here seven years before it burned. When the pool was installed, the pump timer was located on the exterior wall of the master bedroom. The timer malfunctioned and caught fire. Only a small one this time. Minimal exterior damage. But still, it found me again. No matter what I do, it seems I can't escape the clutches of the flames. We have a smoke alarm in every room. An extinguisher in every room. Piglet knew the escape routes from the house and the meeting point at 3 years old. I don't know if it will be enough. It's probably appropriate that I've opted for cremation. It seems I'm destined for the flames no matter what.


Vanessa said...

OMG You have just written about one of my greatest fears in life. As a kid my brother used to wait until I was in my room and set trash cans on fire in the hallway, trapping me. To this day it's one of my biggest fears.

I am so sorry for your multiple losses. I can't imagine how hard this must be. Thank god everyone has remained safe.

Kate said...

Well. You've survived them all. There's got to be some lesson in this that we're supposed to learn from you. I'm terrified of fires and I now live in a basement apartment that was grandfathered in when they declared that apartments had to have those special windows. No special windows in my lair. I'm screwed.

Rima said...

I'm with Vanessa. Fire is a huge fear of mine, and you just proved it happens waaaaay more often than you'd think.

When I was a kid, I thought that every person's house would catch fire at least one in their life (not sure where I got that.) I planned my own escape strategy and everything, but now, looking back on it, I don't think it would have worked too well.

The plan was to keep all of my most cherished belongings in my bottom dresser drawer and use it to break the window out of which I was going to jump. I would kill three birds with one stone: save myself, my stuff, and break the window in one fell swoop. Nice.

I sincerely hope that the only fire in your life from here on out is the flames of passion.

Twisting Ivy said...

I'm speechless...

I'm so sorry to hear about all of that.

We had a fire once, when my son was 4 months old. 2 days before his first Christmas. It was in a neighbouring apt, and while we only had smoke damage to our things and got most of it back, the family down the hall lost their 2 kids.

Fires are scary, and the fear tends to linger with you long afterwards.

I second Rima's sentiment, and may the only fires from here on be those of passion.

And I think that's great that Piglet knows fire safety, it's such an important lesson to teach our kids and one that's often overlooked.

Candy said...

Holy fire extinguisher, Batman! That's CRAZY!

Remind me not to stand next to you in an electrical storm.

Ree said...

Honey? You can never, ever, ever sleep over. This is my greatest recurring nightmare.

carrie said...

I am so sorry you've had to go through so many fires . . . being married to a firefighter, I know how devastating they can be.

On a lighter note, nobody can ever say that you aren't "hot."

Sorry, bad joke.