Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Fire

New International Version Luke 2:11
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

 “A happy ho-ho-ho to you!” Tis the season to be jolly and all of that! Because this is December, I’ll dedicate my blogs to our family Christmas stories!

 It was Christmas Eve 1977. I was busy making pumpkin pies for the Christmas meal. My five children ranged in age from my oldest daughter, Tammy, was twelve, I think, and my youngest, Heather, was four. We had bought bicycles for the four oldest and a Big Wheels for Heather – the big plastic ones that sat low to the ground.

 My husband decided to put the bicycles together and sent our son, Junior, to the storage shed for the tool box. Our house had a carport, not a garage, and the storage shed was attached to the house. Up to my elbows in spices, flour and canned pumpkin, Junior walks by me with the tool box and said, “The can of gasoline spilled,” meaning the gas we kept for our lawnmower.

 “That can start a fire,” I replied, thinking if the gasoline got near the gas water heater. “Go clean it up,” I hollered.

I went back to my pie making, and before I knew it, my husband was yelling, “Give me the car keys.” I didn’t respond immediately because I was trying to process in my mind why he was yelling about the car keys.

 Well, the gasoline had started a fire. Our station wagon (remember those?) was in the carport next to the storage. The next minutes were chaotic confusion. My first thought was to get the kids out of the house. My husband’s thought was to move the car and turn the water hose on the fire.

 I gathered my kids, minus Tammy, who I thought was at Lisa’s house. We stood across the street with the neighbors who had gathered to watch the fire. “Can we help?” someone asked. “My kids’ Christmas gifts are under the tree,” was my response. Hey, it was Christmas, and in that moment, those gifts were my valuables.

 Firemen arrived before the fire spread. I watched as a couple of firemen stood on the roof with axes. Before I could wonder what that was about, a group of men started a chain passing gifts out the door and onto the front lawn. I suppressed a hysterical giggle at the sight. Giggling is better than hysterical wailing, right?

 I watched the pile of gifts grow as I mumbled, “Why are they chopping holes in the roof?” Someone, I don’t know who, replied, “To check if the fire has spread.” Huh? That’s how to check?  While I pondered that, I gasped at what appeared to be a ghost, actually two ghosts, walking out the front door. It took me a minute to realize it was Tammy and Lisa. Both looked confused. Yeah, welcome to my world. How did I go from making pies to watching my house burn?

 Tammy and Lisa moved to stand beside me. “I thought you were at Lisa’s.” She looked at me with saucer-shaped eyes. Her mouth opened and she wailed, “My violin!”

 Seriously? Your violin? But, I asked a fireman to take her inside to get her violin. The crowd began to disperse. I walked over to the firemen sweeping out the charred remains in our storage. “Did you save Heather’s Big Wheel?” They glanced at me with looks of compassion and went back to cleaning.

 The crew chief came over to talk to us. With a sigh, I asked, “Is the smoke smell going to be too strong for us to sleep?”

 He looked at me with a mixture of concern and amusement and said, “Ma’am, you can’t stay here. Your power is off and we chopped holes in the roof.” We spent the night with friends, Dede and Richard, had Christmas day at my parents' home, and per the insurance adjuster, found a motel to rent while we looked for a  temporary house until repairs could be made on ours. That took three months.

Although there are better ways to spend Christmas, I found the time to thank God no one was hurt and that other than items in the storage shed, none of our other belongings were damaged.

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