Last night was wild! It began as any other normal, ordinary, evening. We ate dinner, soup and french bread, we talked, played a few rounds of Foosball, then settled down for the night. Paprika went to bed. Allspice finished up a game of Risk on the computer. Cinnamon watched me as I went through some school work that I needed to organize for their notebooks. Dan lit a fire in the fireplace. Peaceful. Serene. A family enjoying each other.
Five minutes later, the chimney caught fire. What a way to ruin a perfectly peaceful night. At first things were calm. Dan was keeping things in check. He made sure the fire wasn't getting any air and was monitoring the situation. Smoke was pouring out the chimney. I decided to look myself, but since I couldn't get a good look at the chimney from the back, I went out to the front of the house. I took one look and decided things were not looking too good: flames were shooting out of the top of the chimney!
The next several minutes were filled with a quiet concerned focus. We live on 14 acres and every summer we talk about what we would do if there was a wildfire. I have spent countless hours thinking about the things I would grab if I had 5 minutes to get out of the house. If I had 15 minutes what would I take or even if I had 30 minutes or an hour. Tonight we put practice into action.
While Dan was busy monitoring things, I told the kids to prepare a few things just in case. I woke up Paprika, quickly explained the situation, and told her to get some things together. I grabbed a laundry bin and put my most prized possession in it: my kids' school notebooks. I have scrapbooked our schoolwork over the years. These notebooks are filled with pictures of our homeschooling journey. They are filled with artwork and writing. They represent so much of what our life has been and they are a beautiful expression of our family; I didn't want to see them ruined. Forget the clothes and underwear, I got the books!
Now at this point I never thought my house would burn down. I figured that maybe we would have to call the fire department and there could end up being some smoke and water damage if they had to shoot that big fire hose down the chimney. I am not sure what everyone else was thinking, but I would later find out it was not what I was thinking.
Within the hour we had suffocated the fire and flames were no longer escaping the chimney. The house still smelled smokey. I would have to give it a good airing out, but the danger had passed. As we began to relax and really come back together, I realized we had been, for the most part, in our own little worlds. The chatter broke that intense silence and excited voices dictated the concern most were feeling inside.
Eventually the conversation came around to the things we packed; the things we thought were important in a time of hurried worry. Dan was too busy to pack and was probably a bit disappointed that all I thought to take was my scrapbooks and my purse. In my defense, I would have thrown other things together if I really thought we were going out the door, but in all honesty, it probably would have been underwear instead of the rifle.
Allspice packed his backpacking bag as efficiently as the boy scout he is. Clothes, underwear, winter hat and scarf, his Bible and rosaries, money and banking information, bowie knife, and binoculars. Wait, binoculars? A bowie knife? I think this poor kid imagined himself having to live off the land, fending for himself, foraging for food after vacating the house.
Cinnamon packed clothes. Lots of clothes. "I even packed something to wear for church on Sunday," she said proudly. There were other things of course: all the gum she owns, her phone and charger, dance gear, every Keith Urban CD she has, her purse, money and bank account, and a mp3 player. She didn't know where she was going, but she was definitely going to look good!
Paprika, who was roused from a pleasant sleep, must have thought we were all nuts. She lightly packed, saving the heavy packing for the real evacuation call. Her bag contained her dance gear, socks and underwear, two pairs of jeans, a few shirts, a sweatshirt, her purse and money, her copy of Bleak House, and her Jane Austen collection. Wherever she was going, at least she had something to read.
What the kids decided to pack has been a source of humor and laughter today and will probably solidify this into a memory that will last a long time. I can imagine some holiday, years from now, looking back and remembering the time we thought we were going to have to escape the dreaded chimney fire. I am sure with each telling the fire will get bigger, the time to escape shorter, the list of what we would have taken longer. I am sure we will laugh and smile, truly thankful that the only refugee that night was Cinnamon who moved to the upstairs couch since her room is next to the wood stove.
Truly we are blessed that everything turned out fine. I am also happy to report that we are well prepared for wildfire season!