Monday, December 8, 2008

What Were YOU Doing at 3:30 a.m. Sunday Morning?

Alternately titled: "Why I Can Never Leave Alex Alone in the House at Night with the Kids Again."

So there I was, you know, asleep, it being 3:30 in the a.m., when waaaaay back in the recesses of my mind, I heard sirens. It might have taken me a while to swim up to the surface because I had taken some Tylenol PM for my bronchitis not long before. But when I finally did open my eyes, I saw red lights swirling around my bedroom.

" kind of seems like the sirens are right on my street," I thought.

Hey, guess what? I was right.

I looked out the window and there were many fire engines parked directly outside my house. I watched, befuddled, for a couple of minutes as I mentally rehearsed how I was going to get three kids, two cats, a dog, and a soundly sleeping husband out of my house.

Then I moved to a different window to look at the house next door towards which all the firefighters were running. Smoke billowed out of the top floor, not twenty feet away from where I stood.

I don't know those neighbors well, mostly because of a language barrier, but I saw them standing on the lawn. They didn't look overly upset, so I assumed that everyone got out okay. (They did.) Meanwhile, firefighters were running inside and up the stairs. They shouted for hoses and broke all the second-floor windows.

I shook Alex awake. I'm surprised he didn't mutter, "I'm NOT snoring; I'm awake!" which is his go-to statement when I start shaking him at night. I think something got through when I told him the house next door was on fire.

Oddly, this is not the first time a house next door to me has caught fire.

When we lived in California, our bedroom window overlooked a vacant house behind us. I woke up one night (again, Alex slept right through it) to the sound of breaking glass. Instead of smoke, there was fire surging out through the window. And there were no firefighters to be seen. I called 911 that night.

I think Alex thinks I'm weird to be so paranoid about fires. I cannot tell you how many times I've mentally rehearsed a middle of the night escape. I talk regularly to my kids about house fires. We have a fire ladder upstairs so we can escape from the upper floor if we have to. And I never fall asleep not wearing something I could run outside in. Because if it were a matter of saving my kids or putting on pants, I'd save my kids. And then I'd be outside, pantsless and embarrassed.

Interesting aside: I took Sam to a birthday party the next day. When I told the kid's dad where I lived, he said, "I was just on that street for a fire last night." He's a volunteer firefighter and had been on one of the fire engines that woke me up. Small world.

I had a stilted conversation with the neighbors today. They said they were okay and didn't need anything. But there is a big sign on all the doors that say "UNSAFE for occupancy." I feel terrible for these people. Especially so because last December, their house was broken into.

But I feel grateful for my family. Even though now that I know that ALL of them will sleep through fire engines and sirens and disaster, I can never leave them alone again.


  1. I was like Alex before I had kids. When I lived with my family in Capitol Hill, I used to sleep through our security alarm. Or more acurately - I'd wake up, hear the alarm and then just decide that my parents would handle whatever was going on. I'd roll over and go back to sleep. Meanwhile - someone was trying to break into our house...

    But now you have me worried... I will wake up if I hear one of the kids sigh in an odd way - but I don't know if I'd wake up for sirens. I'd hope that it would be different now and that I don't require the sound of a baby crying to drag myself out of a deep sleep. Chris does travel for work, so I kind of need to bring my A game to the "protect the family" efforts while he's away.

  2. Scary! I am the one who sleeps through that stuff here. I will wake up when one of the kids rolls over in another room, but when the smoke detector in our bedroom went off (due to paint fumes, not smoke, thankfully), I didn't wake up until my husband woke me. It was deafening.

  3. Yup. Mine says the same thing when I shake him awake and would sleep through a bomb.

    Unless the said bomb was being controlled by an iphone or Mac, then he would be all over that...

  4. My husband is minister of all strange noises, so while he thinks both of our children almost always sleep through the night - HA! - he does manage to wake up for strange outside noises. Like one time, a fox murdered a baby possum while the mother possum screamed at it. I kid you not, this happened in my Arlington backyard. My husband was all over waking up to make sure the animals had not actually entered our home, because it sounded as if they were on our dining room table.

  5. My parents house burned almost to the ground 3 years ago, and they were lucky to have gotten out in the nick of time. My aunt's house burned down 2 years before that. I am totally paranoid about housefires.

  6. Guys are all alike, I feel the same way;

    Sometimes I'll just think to myself, "Nothing can ever happen to me because I have to care my both my guys-my son AND husband."

    Good thoughts to your neighbors and your family too !

  7. I'm terrified of house fires too. A couple of years ago three townhouses directly behind ours had a terrible fire, and even though we were out of the house for the worst of it, I was so haunted by the smoldering shell of the building that I couldn't sleep for a couple of nights.

  8. think a little paranoia about things like fire is desirable! And, maybe you need to get Alex's hearing tested? ;-)

  9. I'm terrified of fire. When I was little, the apartment building across from mine burned to the ground, and everyone was screaming and crying in the parking lot. One of the firefighters died when the roof caved in. It was all because someone had left their live tree with the lights on and it was too dry.

    To this day, I rehearse fire drills in my head and refuse to have a real tree.

    Your poor neighbors!!! Do they celebrate Christmas? I hope if they do, they hadn't done their shopping yet.

  10. The idea of fire terrifies me. Lets not talk about it, m'kay?

  11. I am glad everyone is safe! I do not have a good fire plan because I am OCD. There is no good plan for my house so I therefore choose to have no plan. I know, it doesn't make sense. I don't think I could ever have a floorplan where my kids' room is not next to my bedroom...I can barely handle the fact that they are across the hall (on the street side of the house -- yes I have panic attacks about cars running into our house and me not knowing). I do have a plan for going over bridges JUST in case we fall into the water. I always have my hand on the power window buttons in case I have to get them down as we fall. I haven't practiced the unbuckling routine for real, but have it mapped out in my head. My drivers ed teacher would be so proud of my defensive driving skills. Yes, having anxiety can be a downer some times! ;)


Thanks for commenting! May you be visited by unicorns and kittens.