Burning Down The House

My children have the energy of the dead. They can literally find a way to make something that should take 45 minutes, take eight hours. Mom used to tell me about the “Slow races in Ireland, where people would compete to see who could go the absolute slowest. It was usually the guy who could balance on his bicycle without falling and without moving, that would win. They never met my kids. In fact, one of my most frequent frustrated quips is, “If there were an emergency, you’d all die because you’re so slow!”

That’s harsh, I know, but it has always been an actual concern. I mean, they make sloths look like Speedy Gonzalez!

Fortunately, they must have gotten the message because at a little before 5am my husband frantically shook me awake. There was a smell in the house, it could be gas, he said. I stumbled out of bed and into the hallway where I was immediately assaulted by a dizzyingly intense odor. It certainly was something. We ran to the kitchen and pulled the stove from the wall in order to turn off the gas line, I opened the exhaust fan and windows. The smell was so strong I could barely think. I didn’t think it was the propane so I called the utility company. The told me to immediately evacuate the premises. While I ran upstairs to get the kids my husband ran around opening all the windows and doors.  To their credit, the kids were out of the house with coats and shoes, the dog and both cats in record time. We piled into the car and drove down the road as we’d been told to do. The firetrucks were blaring their horns while flashing lights lit up the street.

Soon a fireman came to speak with us, there was a leak, but it wasn’t gas, it was oil… lots and lots of oil. We had had a repairman come and fix the heat a few days prior and he had forgotten a screw.  Since then, the oil had been steadily leaking into the basement. On a couple of occasions, my husband had mentioned a smell to me, but since my accident, my senses of smell and taste have been off so I couldn’t smell anything. The leak had become considerably worse at some point and oil had flooded the basement and was continuing to flood the basement until another repairman came to fix it hours later. The fire department brought bags of some type of chemical spill absorber in and laid it down until the repairman could come.

We were given the ok to return, but the smell was giving everyone severe headaches so I dropped off the animals and my husband stayed to switched out buckets as they filled with oil from the leak, and took the kids out to eat breakfast at the diner. They were going to have to go to school after all and were, by this time, starving. We dragged our disheveled selves to the diner down the road, ate a hearty meal, and had a good chuckle.

After an excessively long breakfast, we finally piled back into the car for the drive home. I plugged in my dying phone and the radio blared some song one of my children must have downloaded (though no one confessed to it), Burning Down The House by the Talking Heads. All of the anxiety and stress came bubbling up in raucous laughter. Tears streamed down our faces while all of them denied having downloaded the song.

In the end, I thanked them for showing me that, in an emergency, they could get out in record time. Now, if I could just get those tired teens up for school on time…

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