Burnin' Down the House

Monday, April 30, 2012

My first night at home in Michigan -- after four months away -- was not supposed to unfold like this:

"Is the Lady of the House OK?"

Or this:

"The roof, the roof, the roof IS on fire!"

But then again, this is my life. Gary and I are magnets for drama: We endure more daily ordeals than the Hunger Games.

After four months in California, which included a robbery, a sick father and much drama, a week on the road doing events, and a weekend with my father who took us to an all-you-can-eat buffet I'm certain included fried Democrat and char-grilled liberal innards, Gary and I arrived home late last night with zero energy and exploding bladders (and SUV).

We both teared up (Dramatic much? YES!) as we pulled down our long driveway, stopping to admire the beautiful lilacs, unfurling ferns, full-on green. We ran around our yard, our woods and our gardens, Mabel sprinting beside us. We couldn't be happier to be home.

Then we started the nightmare of unpacking.

"Jesus! We're like the Joads!" I screamed, after a half hour, still hauling bags, and books, and luggage, and laptops, and artwork, and endless crap from our four months on the road.

"I don't know them," Gary yelled to me. "Are they like the new Kardashians? Oh, my God! I didn't establish an 'arrival experience' for us! We need mood lighting! We need a fire! We need cozy!"

What I needed was some Ativan and a bottle of Malbec.

But this is our routine.

Like life, we also have set rules for unpacking after a trip: I am the mule, Gary the organizer. I get it out; he puts it up. That's why I finance the gnomes that Gary places in our woods, that's why I buy the Henri Bendel firewood-scented candles that Gary lights in every room of our house.

Which is what I thought I was smelling as I hauled yet another load of random stuff (bags of Barbies, desert rocks, posters of my noggin) into the house. That's when I heard:

"CALL 911! CALL 911"

I was so exhausted, I thought I was dreaming.


I thought Gary was joking, so as I entered our knotty-pine cottage, I began to sing, and gyrate, "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire ..."

"No, gurl! The roof IS on fire!" Gary screamed. "CALL 911!"

There, my partner stood, nude, mind you, because he likes to unpack naked as it gives him a feeling of "freshness and freedom," flames shooting from our ancient wood stove, sparks shooting out of the pipes, Gary's chestnuts literally being roasted.

I ran outside, dialing 911, and there I saw flames shooting out of our chimney. I hadn't seen any flame burn higher in my life, until Gary ran outside, still nude, running in circles, screaming in a high-pitched voice, "My McCoy pottery! My dishes! My house!"

The 911 operator instructed me to evacuate the house, and then asked if my wife needed medical assistance. Gary grabbed the phone, "My house is on fire! Hurry!" "We're doing everything we can, ma'am," the operator said. "You need to remain calm."

I watched my wife -- she with the dangling participle -- run back into the house. And then back out. And then back in.

"Put on some pants, lady," I instructed, holding Mabel.

And then we waited. And prayed. Our bungalow was all pine. All wood. Inside and out. One errant flame, and it would be gone in the blink of an eye. I loved this house. But I also knew -- after our recent robbery -- I had what mattered most in the world beside me: Gary and Mabel.

Suddenly, as if God heard our prayers, it began to rain. The sparks began to die down.

The firemen arrived, trucks screaming down our little, gravel drive.

They got on our roof. They tested our wood stove. They used a heat device to detect temperature. They said it had been very close. Very, very close.

I sighed. Gary cried. Mabel peed.

Lessons learned:

Clean your fireplace every year.

Firefighters are true heroes.

I love my family.

Wear some pants when you start a fire.

It's good to be home.

It's good to HAVE a home.


Blogger Troy said...

Somehow you always manage to find humor in stressful situations. Thanks for sharing.

April 30, 2012 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Darlene K Campbell said...

I was laughing outloud enough that I woke the dog. I love this story...you two are such a hoot. grateful the house and you both are okay.

April 30, 2012 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger K. Zastrow said...

Glad it turned out ok!

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