If you are new to Sharon Wheatley’s blog, I write stories in “blogisodes”. To start, go to blogisode one of this story here: http://wp.me/p1zRyr-eg
Good morning! This blogisode is brought to you by the playroom in the vacation home we are staying in. It has not one, but TWO train tables, so despite the fact that Beaz and I are hanging out by ourselves while Rob and Charlotte hike (in this ALTITUDE and with all these wild ANIMALS around….a suicide mission….you see why I didn’t go), I think she will stay occupied long enough for me to get some work done. Being a New Yorker apartment dweller, I sometimes fantasize about having a “bonus room” and a dishwasher, and a washer and dryer, and a yard (as you know if you are a regular reader), so this vacation home and all the fancy bells and whistles is right up my alley. If the house came with a Golden Retriever I would never, ever leave. News flash, I was just served a plastic turkey and a pot of tea from the play kitchen, but Beazer said “It’s hot, blow on it for 10 minutes” so I will blog while it cools off. She seems satisfied with that because I let her color while her chicken nuggets cool off.
Speaking of hot, let’s get back to the fire.
We left off on August 11, 2001 with me holding a phone with a dial tone–scared to death that I had just spoken to my mother for the last time. My mother was somewhere holding a phone, having just pushed the “end” button on her phone, hanging up on me while apparently looking at a fire. In her house.
Remember that in 2001 we didn’t all have cell phones. And my parents live in Cincinnati, Ohio, 638 miles away. I called my sister’s number and my brother’s number, but no one answered. Obviously they’d already been called and were driving the 2 miles
or so they needed to go to see the fire live and in person, and I–the youngest and the last to get called about everything–was to wait it out, left simultaneously sweating and swearing while I paced. And worry-cleaned*. (Please see “Don’t F*%& With the Pancreas” for an explanation of “worry-clean”. But I really should start a worry-clean cleaning service. Maybe the deal is you tell me bad news and I’ll clean your house. I’m going to make a million with this idea…and I’ll turn it into a reality TV show….)
Finally, an hour so later, my phone rings again. It’s my mother. She’s laughing.
Mom: We had ALL the fire trucks here. They had to block off the street.
Pause in story. My mother has a weird fascination with sirens. When I was a kid she used to try to follow the fire trucks to their destination until we would yell and scream for her to stop. This time she didn’t have to follow them at all, they came to her, so she was
thrilled. Just to clarify–this is not like other people who have a fascination with the fire MEN. My mother likes the fire TRUCKS. With sirens. Which makes her kind of like a 4 year old boy. Unpause.
After a while and a few “I’ll call you right back” hang ups, and being passed around from person to person, I finally pieced together what happened.
Yes, in fact, my parents’ house was on fire, and (good news) they were fine. The story goes like this.
My parents went to see a movie that Saturday night and came out to a pretty severe lightning storm. They rushed to the car and drove home, and as my mother reports, “Your father wouldn’t even let me stop at the store and I really needed things.” Or as my father reports, “Hell of a storm.” They came home and my mother wanted to go to bed, but my Dad said they should go to the basement to play pool. Pause in the story. My
parents have never played pool together in their lives, so THAT is how bad the storm was. Unpause. Just as my father was racking up the balls and my mother was complaining that she hates to play pool and wanted to go to bed, there was a huge lightening strike and the power went out. Apparently my father said, “Uh oh. Sounds like it hit a transformer.” Now, I live in NYC and I don’t worry about things like that, but if you live in the burbs a transformer getting hit is a big concern. How long will the power be out? Should you call the electric company? Maybe the neighbor will call. Probably, she’s old and likes to make phone calls. Problem solved, so you sit and wait out the storm and wait for the power to come back on.
So they waited. For a few minutes. And then my mother–ever wanting to see what is going on–decided to go upstairs to take a look (and sneak up to put her nightgown on). Half way up the stairs she yelled back down, “Chuck, it smells like smoke up here.” They ran around the house–the pitch black house–until they found the source; the house was on fire above the garage where the electric came in. It wasn’t a transformer that was hit, it was their house.
My dad yelled for my Mom to get out and they stood in the pouring rain and lightning, watching their house burn. Phone calls were made (the fire department, my brother and
sister, me) and then a neighbor came over and told my Dad to get the car out of the garage. Which, by the way, was on fire. But he did–he ran in there, started the car (all with my mother screaming..this is when she hung up on me)–and pulled it out just in time.
All in all, they sustained a lot of damage despite every fire truck in Anderson Township showing up, and it was clear they weren’t going to live there for a long time.
After the fire was out and a crowd of about 15 friends and family members had gathered in the rain (my mother made a lot of driveway-panic phone calls), they sent my Mom and Aunt Nancy in to get a few items to make it through the night. My mother reports that, “It was pitch black and wet and smelled terrible. Nancy and I worked our way up the stairs in the dark and when I said I couldn’t see anything, a fireman handed me a flash light through the hole in the wall in the bedroom. Nancy and I laughed about that for
five minutes. Imagine a huge hole where your wall used to be and a fireman standing on your roof!” I can’t say a lot of people would choose that moment to laugh, but part of the charm of my parents (and family) is their ability to find humor in stressful situations. Not that I inherited that. Not like a just wrote a medical comedy about my husband’s two trips to the hospital with pancreatitis. That would just be tacky.
My parents set up shop at my sister’s house over night and still managed to make it to a family party the next day. As my mother said, “We always come in with some kind of a story. A flat tire, your Dad going low and needing insulin, but this one topped them all.
Our clothes still smelled like smoke!” My Aunt Barbara sent a picture of my parents from that party that I cropped and it came out a little blurry, but they might have been smelly, but they looked good! As my Aunt Barbara said, “Your parents still came– UNBELIEVABLE! Your mom was concerned that she didn’t have anything to wear because of the fire!”
They thought the worst was done, but the series of unusual events had just begun…
To read the next blogisode in this series, go here: http://wp.me/p1zRyr-f0
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