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I Remember the Smoke: The Rest of the Story

30 Jan

What happened a few months before the fire:  My mother had a recurring nightmare about thieves breaking into the house.  So she pestered my dad until he installed a new door knob on the front door, one that locked.  Once the door knob was installed, she was happy, and went about life as usual, never bothering to lock the door.

What happened the day of the fire:  My mother left 4 of us at Grandma’s house (ages 5, 4, 3, & 2) while she went grocery shopping with the baby (6 months old).  She returned to the house from shopping, intending to put the sleeping baby in his crib before coming to get the rest of us from Grandma.  But the front door was locked.   Rather than walk ALL the way around to the back door, she decided to just take the baby with her.

My father was laying a Formica counter in the new addition to the house.  The glue that is used to glue down ( lay) Formica is very flammable.  The fumes are also extremely flammable.  Dad had gone upstairs to put his tools away and as he reached to set the glue can on the shelf, his overall strap caught on a nail.  He missed the shelf and the can dropped.  When the can hit the floor, it caused a spark that ignited the fumes in the house and the house basically erupted in flames.  The force of the fire pushed Dad down the stairs and out the back door in 2 giant steps.  He ran around to the side of the house, broke a window, and pulled out the file cabinet drawer I mentioned before.  He also grabbed a box of baby clothes (which it turned out my mom had boxed up because the baby had outgrown them.)  If the baby had been in the house, my dad would most likely not been able to save him, and probably would have died trying.

This is the boy who lived because one day in the whole of my parents’ life, someone locked a door:

(he’s the one wearing the shirt)

Here are the rest of us who are also all glad that we weren’t home that day:


If you click on the picture, you can see it bigger.

of Shores and Ships

18 Oct
Twice in my adult life, I have received a message on my phone from my Mother  that went like this, “Everybody is okay, but call me as soon as you can.”
Once I received that same message from my sister.
The first time, my family’s house had burnt to the ground, but my parents and all 8 of my siblings still at home had gotten out safely.  The next time, my sister’s house had burnt to the ground, but she and her 4 month old baby and my 3 little girls whom she had been watching that day all got out safely.  The last time I got that message, a tornado had taken the second story off my parent’s house, but the 9 people who were in it at the time were all okay.
That message on my phone that begins with “everybody is okay” is one that sends my heart racing with fear because I know something scary has happened.
But a message far worse would be a message missing that reassurance, “everybody is okay.”
A sweet relative of mine lost her mother to ovarian cancer 2 weeks ago.  She wrote a very touching blog about her mother and included this thought:
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says,“There, she’s gone.”
Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living weight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her; and just at that moment when someone at my side sighs: “There, she’s gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices to take the glad shout,“There, she’s coming!”
 I am sad for my sweet relative who has lost her closest friend and glad for her mother, who is gone to peace & rest, and many other feelings all at once which I cannot put into words that satisfy me.  Each day that we have is a miracle and a gift.

Music and Spring

15 Mar

I grew up listening to Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. I think it was my dad’s goal to make sure we kids knew what good music was. I never really paid attention to exactly what we were listening to, I just listened to it. What I mean is, at the time, I couldn’t have told you whether I was listening to Mozart or Beethoven. I just knew I liked it. I do know that my favorite album he had was a collection of famous waltzes from ballets. I’ve searched for that collection for several years and not been able to find it. However, this post is not about that collection. This post is about a moment in my life and the power of music and how grateful I am.

So you, my faithful readers, may not know that I was in the National Guard for 8 years. Which means that I went to basic training for 10 weeks (they told me 8, but there was a week zero, plus a few extra days on the end) and then Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for 5 weeks. I was 19 and had never been away from my family for even half that amount of time. I plunged into an environment where swear words and anger were the majority of what I heard and saw. I was pushed well beyond what I had believed were the limits of my physical endurance. During the weeks of basic training, I learned to escape the anger and cussing by singing children’s songs from church in my head. On my own during KP duty, I dared to whisper the words under my breath.

When I got to AIT, things were a little different. We had more freedom and we were allowed to listen to walkmans in our free time. (Yes, this was before iPods.) Three of the four other girls who slept in my room had walkmans and their favorite music to listen to was this rap star, Tupok. I guess I’m lucky they didn’t let us have boomboxes, or I’d have had to actually listen to him too–as it was, I had to listen to them singing (does one sing rap?), and those girls did not edit his songs for cussing, maybe because they would have had to skip 2 out of every 3 words.

I was feeling more and more down all the time. I was missing my family and surrounded by all the anger and cussing and yuck. Also, because of training schedules and misinformation and bad luck, I hadn’t been able to attend church for 4 weeks. I was really getting desperate. One Saturday, we were allowed to go to the big Post Exchange. As I wandered around, I saw a stack of CD’s on sale. Right in front was one that read
Antonio Vivaldi
The Four Seasons

Across my mind flashed an image of a cassette tape with the words “The Four Seasons” printed on it. I knew this was music my dad owned. I knew I had listened to it before. The CD was on sale for $3.00. I am sure now it was there for me, at a price I would pay. (I rarely ever spent money back then. I didn’t even know how to use the debit card my credit union had sent me and most vendors don’t take checks from WAY out of state.) I bought that CD (they took my check), not even knowing what it would sound like. I think maybe I had a vague idea that “The Four Seasons” were like “The Mammas & The Papas.” I just knew my dad owned it and I needed something from home. I went back to the barracks, borrowed someone’s walkman, and snapped the CD in. It turns out I knew the music well; I just hadn’t known its name.

The first chord was as familiar to me as my own bones and my whole soul sang along with that beautiful music. It lifted me right out of the dark pit I had sunk into and gave me the strength to keep on. The next morning, I was finally able to catch the right bus at the right time and attend Sacrament Meeting. It was a miracle –two miracles sent just for me.

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. D&C 25:12

The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. Psalms 118:14