Thursday, August 24, 2006

Storm Fire And Family

It stormed here this morning.

It was one of those storms where the flashes of lightning and the booms of thunder wake sleeping cherubs from their dreams of recess and candy, of fireflies and slip-and-slides.

First, Diva found her way to me.

“I’m scared. It’s really loud.”

“Get in and let’s cuddle,” I said.

Hubby was getting up and getting ready for work.

“Don’t go yet,” I said. “Wait it out a little bit. It sounds so terrible out there.”

“If I don’t get rolling now, it’ll take me forever to get into work.”

He left, but I didn’t feel lonely because another pair of pitter-pattering feet came into the room minutes later.

“Mom, it woke me up,” from Tukey.

“Get in,” and we moved over some more.

This is sounding like the Five Little Monkeys jumping on the bed story.

And then, Ajers appeared. We all snuggled and talked about the storm, cringing every time a loud boom hit, seemingly right out our door. The windows vibrated, the rain pelted the glass, the ominous thunder slammed into the drenched air, bringing the four of us closer together in the bed.

“Don’t worry, you’re safe here,” I reminded them.

Diva said, “God must have bowled a good one that time.”

When they were younger, I told them during storms, when they hear the thunder, it means God is either rearranging Heaven’s furniture, or bowling.

“Strike!” Ajers said.

And then a flash that brightened the room so I could see the fear in their eyes.

“Say cheese!” Tukey said. Of course, lightning is when God is taking pictures.

We snuggled some more and then I heard them. Sirens just up the street. Lots of them. And they continued on and on. I grabbed the phone and dialed “the Dad.”

“Are you okay?” I asked when he answered his cell. “There are a ton of sirens, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t for you.”

“I’m fine. The rain is letting up.”

“Call me when you get into work, I love you.”

“I will, I love you too.”

We’re the kind of family that overloads on the I-Love-Yous, but I’d rather know that the last words we had spoken to each other were just that. That would be enough to get me through, I would think. I would hope. To know that the last words said were I love you. To know the last words heard were I love you.

We all snuggled some more and then I said I’d make chocolate-chip-cinnamon pancakes.

Later, at the bus stop, we waited. And waited. The rain had stopped, but little spits fell every now and then in between sky that was pushing its way through gray. The bus still wasn’t coming, and the kids were starting to worry they would be late. There are 13 kids at our stop. Fifteen minutes into our wait, one of the parents began dialing the school to see what was the matter; then the bus came.

I gave Diva a “Squish with Love” and a “kiss for her pocket” (okay, probably about twelve), which are our traditions, and Ajers got some smooches and I Love Yous too.

The bus driver told us the streets were a mess.

There was a fire not far from our house. A three-alarm fire. That’s big, right? Lightning had struck, and that’s what all the sirens were doing – going to put out the fire of a family of eight. Six kids, two parents. This home is walking distance from ours. I have walked past this home, admired it, thought it was a nice neighborhood, quiet, woodsy, friendly.

Later, Tukey and I went to Barnes & Noble with some mom and kid friends. My cell phone rang, and I saw it was the school calling.

I felt a twinge of fear.


“Hi, this is the nurse from the school.” (A new nurse.)

“Is everything okay?” I asked, thinking Diva probably finally lost her “Nanny McPhee” tooth and she was most likely in a panic, shaking hysterically, spitting, crying, and asking “Is there blood?” Because this is what really happens when she loses a tooth. Traumatic.

The nurse said, “Yes, everything’s okay. I was just checking on Andrew’s absence.”


“He’s not absent. He got on the bus. I saw him get on the bus.” Then I thought maybe the teacher didn’t sign him in because it’s a new year and apparently she is calling him Andrew, not his nickname, and maybe he didn’t answer when they said Andrew.

“He’s got to be there,” I said. “He’s the biggest kid in class and wears glasses.” The nurse told me she would go check the classroom. And she hung up.

She hung up on me! Why didn’t she just tell me to hang on, and she would run down the hall and call me right back. I didn’t want to be standing in the cafĂ© at Barnes & Nobles with a dead cell phone waiting for a nurse to call me back to let me know if my son was in fact in his third grade classroom!

I called the school back right away and spoke to the secretary, the one who knows AJ.

“Hi Jan, AJ’s at school, right?”

“They’re checking.”

I’m not one to panic, and I didn’t, but I just started reading this book, Eye Contact, about a child who is eight years old who is discovered missing at school, and I’m thinking, Oh, great. Just what I need.

But then they told me he was there. Apparently, since the bus was so late, the aide took attendance and didn’t see AJ at that point. But he was there. Safe.

Later, as more info surfaced about the fire and the house, and the family, I took a drive by the street, thinking I would maybe catch a glimpse of the damage. When I drove by, there was no chance of missing it.

A three-story home. Ruined. Everything, it looked like. The last of the fire trucks was departing, and a few people were outside. I felt sort of like a voyeur peeking into their horror, for wanting to see what had happened. I felt kind of guilty for driving by to look at the damage, to see what a three-alarm fire does to a home. The roof had holes in it, the shingles were gone, so much was charred, the color of coal; I can’t even describe what it looked like, and can’t even imagine the smell of burned belongings, memories, melted plastic, singed and stuck onto other cherished items, gone. I thought about the three children who still lived at home; it’s their first week of school, all their books, their new clothes, being excited about high school, junior high, everything going their way, and then, to wake up out of a sleep to discover a fire, the smell, screams, cries to get out, call 911. Racing to the nearest door toward safety, which was nothing more than a sheet of rain, and more thunder and more lightning, the family huddled together out front, watching the flames lick away at everything.

And then later, the call the parents would have to make to each of their three children in college.

“Honey, we’re all okay, but there’s been a fire.”

Can you imagine what your heart would do, would feel like at that moment? Dear God.

So after I drove by with Tukey, I thought it was maybe a dumb idea. If he saw this damage, remembered it, heard me say over and over as we drove by, “Dear God, Oh my God,” how is he going to react the next time there’s a storm? When there’s a flash of lightning in the sky, or a boom of God making a strike, and then a spare, and a gutter ball, and another strike. How can I keep them safe, and believing it can’t happen to us? How can I believe this?

At dinner, two of the kids were fighting, being mean, being siblings to one another, the typical, “he hit me,” “she called me an idiot,” “I wish I didn’t have a sister!”

I looked at them and told them to stop.

“A family lost everything they had today, and you’re bickering about a Smartie candy?”

They have to realize they’re all we have. That everything can be gone, whipped right out from underneath us in a flash, a bolt, a boom, and then when it has all evaporated, what do we have?

We’ll never have nothing.

We only have each other.


thisbearbites said...

I have goose bumps. Good writing!

1 plus twins said...

your little ones sound adorable. how horrible about the house burning down. i hope it doesn't scare your little ones more. thanks for stopping by my blog today. i will be stopping by here more often.

xxxx said...

I have goosebumps, too! That is so horrible. But cute image of you all snuggling together in bed :)

Anonymous said...

I think seeing a burned house helps kids appreciate what could happen if they play with matches too.

It may frighten them but it also educates them.

Katie Burke said...

You are the best. Growing up as members of a family defined by that much love will be the best life experience that your children, as adults, will remember. Thank God for moms like you!

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Drewpy Drew said...

I'm glad you're OK. I could feel your fear through your writing. You had what I call a "Big Picture" moment. One that puts everything into perspective. I hope you never miss a chance to say 'I love you' to those you do.

The best things in life aren't things.

B. said...

Wow. That brought a tear to my eye. I hope your community pulls together and helps out that family.

Anonymous said...

You got me crying.


My mom told us God was bowling too.

Anonymous Fat Blogger said...

You sound alot like me! We overload the "love yous" cause I feel the same as you, I always want that to be the last thing someone hears from me just in case....God forbid.

Last weekend when it was raining pretty bad, a house 3 down from me got struck by lightning also. We had all the firetrucks out blocking our driveway and everything. Totally freaked me out but at least it didn't do much damage unlike the one by you.

cubmommy said...

That storm was scary yesterday. Fortunately the boys did not wake up during it. I was expecting them to climb in bed with me.

So sorry to hear about your neighbors. That is scary. I am always saying I love you to Hubby and family after I talk with them. After 9/11 you never know.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Makes you appreciate the things you do have. Has the neighborhood banded together to help out the family at all? How old were the kids?

Anonymous said...

I have to say, one of your better writings. I was right there with you. Great adjectives! This ones definitly book worthy, save it.

Great job!

Rachel said...

Good post, very true. That's horrible about the house. I can't imagine how that must feel.

Slackermommy said...

I used to question God about why bad things happen, until I realized that there is a grace that follows. A beautiful lesson to pull people closer. You found that grace and good for you to point it out to your kids and relish in it.

I also tell my kids that God is bowling and the lightening are the angels using their flashlights to check on us.

Steve H said...

at least my kids aren't the only ones to bicker over crap that is meaningless.

one time when my kids were bickering over not having something that they thought they deserved i took them, at night, in their PJs and drove them into the crappiest, drug infested, bullet ridden part of Hartford and told them to get out of the car and live there if they didn't like how easy they had it.

they, obviously, were horrified. they had heard about the 'north end' but had never seen it. i don't have to many issues with their 'entitlement' mentality anymore, and if we do, all i have to say is, 'get in the car' and it stops. immediately.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Hotwire, you are a good dad for doing this. I would too. I will reply to others tomrorow, i am a little bit buzzed, so good night all!

MQ said...

Wow, do I ever get that last line!

MQ said...

Oh, and Gabe's school has called twice saying he was absent when I put him on the bus, only because his teacher is overzealous in taking attendance the milisecond school starts. Sheesh! They're going to give us a heart attack!!!(I panicked the first time and told them to check the classroom again the second time :)

Anonymous said...

ONe of your best writnings yet!!! Great work!! If your book reads anything like this I want a copy now!!


Anonymous said...

You are too kind to keep checking in with me about the no sugar. I haven't fallen off the wagon yet, but have not been a very nice person either. A little on edge, but I can tell it is getting better. I think I'm almost over the hump. On the good side, in just a week, I can fit back into my favorite jeans, so that is motivation for me. I'm going to keep it up. Are you sure you don't want to join me?
Have a good weekend!

Anonymous said...

What a reflective entry. Powerful writing. It gave me goosebumps. You sound like a very spiritual person and a wonderful mother.

There is so much value in taking mental pictures, creating those memories. You’re right, in the end all that matters is each other.

NapaGirl said...

Good writing....touching!

Anonymous said...

nice site