This week I woke up one morning and, as is my wont, checked my email and Facebook before getting ready to drive the children to school. I learned that in the middle of the night my friends' warehouse had burned down. They had jumped out of a second floor to safety, throwing their two dogs down (tragically their other two dogs were not reachable and died in the fire). Both my friends were in the hospital.
These are friends who are in the peak of life, just married a couple of weeks ago at Burning Man (it is the groom who built the cathedral, with the paltry assistance my friend N. and I could offer). Now one is facing a couple of months in a burn unit, having already had two surgeries and with the prospect of many more. The other one has just been released but is in a wheelchair. They are homeless and have lost most of their possessions.
The Sober Husband and I resolved to check our smoke detector's batteries. We have only the one working, upstairs. We renewed our perennial squabble over having one on the ground floor. I offered to try one out in the living room. Long ago I took the controversial move of disabling the one near our kitchen, as it went off every single time I cooked, mistaking steam for smoke. I don't even burn things, but that damn smoke detector was convinced I was a menace, and I couldn't have it screaming at me when I was trying to make dinner. The dented ceiling still bears witness to the days when I'd jab up at the fire detector with a broom, angrily trying to silence that damn thing. The smoke detector in the bedroom I have nothing but fond feelings for, however, and I'd be willing to try forming a relationship with another well-behaved, better-positioned one.
This week has been a dull one for me. Lola spent a day home ill from school. I've had a couple of unpleasant social encounters lately that have left me holing up at home, associating only with the children most days. But rather than feel disgruntled, I'm happy to have the luxury to be in my home with my pets and children. I'm not in a burn ward facing rounds of skin grafts. I'm not having to replace all my things. I'm lucky.
I went to a bookstore and bought a replacement copy of the book my friend was reading when her home was burnt down and added it to a bag of yuppie food treats to give her a break from the hospital fare, and I dropped it off for her at SF General without seeing her (she was tired, and I didn't want to bother her with having to make conversation). If my house ever burns down, that's what I'd want done for me personally: bring me whatever book I was in the middle of and some decent food. The surviving dogs have already been taken in by other friends.
"What are you going to do for J.?" asked Iris. Unfortunately I can't send food to my other friend, as the burn ward has very strict rules allowing only cards to be sent to patients (burn victims are at great risk of infection, and who knows what germs could be lurking in a bag of upscale food). "I'm going to draw him a homemade card," I said, "with him thinking, 'I need some real #(&@ carpenters' while N. and I are trying to build the cathedral."
Check your smoke detectors' batteries, everyone.
Fire prevention month is October, so there will be many more reminders coming up, but you don't have to wait. Do it now and you can feel smug when you get the reminders.
So sorry about your friends.
Oh and there are also reminders when the clocks get changed for Daylight savings time. Either one or both, once a year is actually good enough.
Smoke Detector With Silence Button
It's 8 bucks. I'll send you one.
We have a smoke alarm (free from the Fire Brigade, who also installed it) that you can reduce the sensitivity of if you're cooking – if it goes off unnecessarily, just hit the button and then for ten minutes or so it's not quite so sensitive. Battery lasts about ten years, too.
Hi! I just found your blog and have ignored my work to binge read back to June 2012. I love, love, love you and your writing and your talented, witty, entertaining offspring and your loving husband. I'm considering you to be my new internet friend and wish I lived in your neighborhood so we could hang out. Vivi
Thank you, Vivi! I so much appreciate that and am glad you found your way over here! xxoo the DH
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