I awakened well before dawn one morning when we still lived in that wonderful house in NY (see my post, http://www.margiesims.com/blog/2011/05/04/The-Jacobi-House.aspx).
Sniff, sniff. Is that smoke? I thought. No, just dust on the heater after it's been off all summer. The nights had begun to get nippy, as my dad use to say, and the heat had been due to come on.
I lay there for a while, when suddenly Captain Fun jumped out of bed. "Do you smell smoke?" he asked, controlled urgency in his voice.
Having been awake for some time, I was getting sleepy. "No," I sighed, rolling over to finally doze off. "It is just the heater coming on after being off all summer. It's the dust burning off."
He left the room to return with a flashlight. "Look!" he said, aiming the beam over my head. "That is smoke."
"Where? I don't see any smoke." I was so sleepy, after all.
"Could you get up and help me look around?" he asked politely. Well, I supposed it was the least I could do.
He went toward the boys' bedroom; I headed into the den. As I looked up at the light fixture, there was no mistaking it: a little bit of smoke was slowly seeping into the room from the attic. I woke up.
"Honey!" I ran to the bedroom. "Come take a look at this!"
"Get the kids up!" he said as he headed to the attic to take a look. I made the rounds. I was on it. I was alert. I was in.
He came down from the attic to find us headed for the door. "Well, I found the fire and was able to put it out," he said, explaining that an old electrical box had apparently shorted and ignited itself. "You guys go back to bed and I will stay up just in case," adding that he would call someone first thing in the morning.
I had barely closed my eyes, it seemed, when he woke me up. "You know, I am afraid of that old box reigniting so I am going up to check. You might want to hop in the shower in case we have to clear out suddenly."
Against my will, I got up and into the shower. Just as I got out of the shower, Captain Fun told me that the fire had reignited in the attic and he had called 911. I needed to hurry.
Surely I have time to dry my hair, I thought. It won't take long.
When Captain Fun came back a third time and found me drying my hair, well, let's just say he stopped being Captain Fun for a moment. "Turn that off and get in the car. Now."
Is it necessary to be so harsh? I thought. Surely not. I had gone through labor nine times without so much as raising my voice. Surely this harshness is uncalled for.
I got into the car obediently. He had already loaded up the kids and Mom Dot. As I backed out of the garage I could hardly believe my eyes. Smoke hovered above the roof of our house from one end to the other. "Honey, look at the smoke!" I said, so distracted, in fact, that I backed into his Mustang.
"I know," he said, "That's what I have been trying to tell you. The house is on fire."
I drove down the hill with the kids and Mom Dot, deciding to head to McDonald's for breakfast, passing the fire truck on my way. The firemen were quick and careful, keeping damage contained to one room. And thank the Lord that because Captain Fun acted so quickly, no one was injured.
Why did it take me so long to realize the house was on fire? When my husband said I might want to jump in the shower, I got stuck on that word "might". Even though I had seen the smoke and heard the urgency in his voice, I was hoping maybe it wasn't as serious as all that.
Maybe it is too easy to take the same approach with our families. We see the smoke: negligence, apathy, all the other red flags that pop up when a relationship is deteriorating. We hear the urgency in our children's or spouse's voice when they suggest something isn't right. But we just won't accept that, yes, the house is on fire.
I hope I always remember what I learned that day: where there's smoke, there's fire. And though that fire was traumatic, it could have been much worse had Captain Fun not been so quick to respond when he saw the smoke. May I handle my family with the same urgency.
After all, far more than a house, a family is worth it.