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.