A Near Disaster

Smoke, flames, and fire engines. Three things, when linked together, send a shiver up anyone’s spine. As the leaves turn brown and start to fall covering the ground like a mosaic and the autumn weather turns cold, those fortunate enough to have a working fireplace start hauling in their seasoned wood, cleaning the hearth and checking the chimney to make sure it’s clear. It’s time to light the fireplace for its warmth and ambience.

Always cautious, a dear neighbor followed her checklist of fireplace preparedness even taking it one step further by asking a local resident to check it out. “All is in working order”, he said while reminding her which way to slide the flue handle.

My neighbor was excited as she got things ready for her family who were coming to dinner that evening. The table was set with her best linen, china, silverware and glasses. The turkey was in the oven, the vegetables peeled and ready to be cooked and her guests’ ‘drinks of choice’ lined the counter. “I’ll get the fire going so all will be ready when my family arrives” she thought to herself. She opened the flue, placed paper under the logs as she has always done and lite the paper. Just then her brother and his wife walked in the front door. He sniffed the air smelling the faint scent of smoke. Disaster is a quick thinker and seldom hesitates when it strikes. Within seconds the house filled with smoke and fire started climbing up the chimney. Quickly, she grabbed a fire extinguisher and doused the flames while someone called 911. Within minutes, 3 fire trucks and a rescue vehicle with flashing lights and sirens appeared and took control. They checked the fireplace, opened all the windows and turned on their large fans to help disseminate the smoke. Within a half hour they were on their way back to the station.

Seeing the red flashing lights I went outside to check. I saw my neighbor and asked if everything was okay. Taking a deep breath, she said “No” and preceded to tell me the story. The rest of her family had arrived and were helping as much as they could after the firemen left. The turkey was minutes from being done and she was considering what to do. I offered to move the dinner party to my home however, everyone agreed they wanted to stay there. I turned to go home when, she asked me to join them for dinner. You see, that’s how she is, always looking out for other people  even in the middle of a near disaster. Never one to refuse a dinner invitation, I went home, changed, selected a couple bottles of wine and returned. What a delightful evening. We laughed, told family stories and solved the problems of the world all while getting to know each other. Spending time with her family, I soon came to realize where her compassion, intelligence and caring came from.

An evening that could have been a disaster turned into a delight. Yes, there’s a little smoke residue on the couch, a wall might need to be repainted and a lampshade vacuumed but these were countered with laughter, caring and the forging of new friendships.

Oh yes, why the fire? The instructions of the well-intending local – he said flue left when it should have been flue right. Sigh.

Sitting on the Couch

Peggy and I have been friends for…well, forever. She was one of the first people I met when I joined LeMasters Racquetball Club. We became instant friends. You know how that is. You meet someone and the next thing you know you’re sharing your life stories like you’ve know each other for a hundred years. You instantly formed a ‘forever bond’. Over the years, our bond grew. Through ups, downs, boyfriend drama, job changes, families, weight gain –mine not hers – weight loss –hers not mine, and vacations. Then it happened, she moved. Our daily conversations became weekly then monthly then on birthdays and finally Christmas card exchanges once a year. We were still there for each other – just separated by miles and life.

The other day, Peggy sent an email telling me about the death of her ‘Aunt Bessie’. Bessie, who lived in Philly, was known for being a meticulous housekeeper. Her home was one of those you could eat off the floor. She had many lovely things but one piece held center stage – her couch. In order to preserve it and keep it showroom new, she had it covered in clear plastic which was a 40’s and 50’s phenomena. Her couch was never sat on it by family or friends. When Bessie died, the couch was as new as it was when she purchased it 30 years before. Peggy was sad, by Bessie’s passing but also for her beloved aunt never completely ‘enjoying’ her couch. Peggy vowed that no matter what, she would never leave this life without ‘sitting on her couch’.

This got me thinking. How many things do we cover with ‘clear plastic’ only to be looked at, kept clean and admired? My Mom had 6 cut crystal glasses given to her as a wedding gift in 1939. They were so thin, a heavenly song played when you ran a wet finger around the rim. This special gift was prominently displayed in her china hutch for all to see but not to be used. For years I asked her to designate those glasses to me in her will. I guess I said it so often that one day she gave them to me saying, “I’m not going to die just for you to get the glasses. Take them and enjoy them while I’m still alive!” I took my treasured gift home and put them in…my china hutch, where I could admire them. One day my husband asked why we didn’t use them. That’s when it hit me – I had ‘clear plasticed’ these beautiful glasses, admiring but not fully enjoying them. Today, even after one was broken, we use them every chance we can. And I must admit that everything taste better in them – even my White Zinfindel.

‘Clear plasticing’ isn’t reserved just for things. People ‘clear plastic’ feelings, thoughts, affection, basically anything they don’t share completely with those they love. Maybe it’s time to take off the wrappings.

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