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.
“Hmmmmm…it 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.