Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Somewhere In Time

In case I haven't mentioned this at least ten times already, I work nights. And because of that, I just hate being called in the early afternoon unless it's really, really important. I've had several conversations with my 80-year-old mother, a definite morning person, about how I define "early afternoon" and "really, really important". So when my phone rang at 2:00 Sunday afternoon and I saw my mom's number on the caller ID, I was only able to croak out, "Mom--" in my Beetlejuice-Gatekeeper-at-Hell voice before she interrupted me with this:

"I know I woke you up, but you're gonna love this!"

"You know my friend Teresa, " she continued. I do. Teresa is about 83 or so and, as my mom says, sharp as a tack. "Well, a few weeks ago Teresa asked me about your house and I told her what you were doing on it, and she said, well, you know that was my little honeymoon apartment where Clarence and I lived when we were first married."

Hold on--apartment?? What apartment?

"Well now, I asked her that, and she said the house was divided up into two apartments, that the entryway was shared and you walked in and there were two doors there. That'd be your bedroom door now and the living room door, I guess. She said they shared that little bathroom in the back and she still remembers how little that bathroom was and how cold it was in the winter."

Ah yes, my tiny bathroom ...no HVAC then, no HVAC now. But when was this?

"They were married in '46 and she said they only lived there for a year or so, and she doesn't remember much about the house other than that. I asked. She said she doesn't have any pictures of the inside because she and Clarence didn't have their own camera."

None of the inside? But does she have some of the outside?

"That's what I'm getting to. She found a little tiny picture of her and Clarence outside the house and she took it to Wal-Mart and blew it up for you and I'm on my way over to your house with it. You're just gonna love this."

There's my house, as it looked 61 years ago. My house, before the ugly shingles covered up the white-painted clapboards. My house, with its original porch--I was right, it was much smaller than the present one--and its pretty wooden porch posts and spandrels. Now I have something to go by when I replicate them one of these days. And there's my living room windows, with the trim around them painted dark. I have actually considered painting the trim a very dark purple, and now I know the house really did look that way once. Around the flat part of the porch roof ran a widow's walk in lacy cast-iron. The porch roof is constructed differently now, but I'm now inspired to put a similar widow's walk around the large flat central portion of my roof. Maybe there was one there, too?

You were right, Mom, I do love that photo. Thanks for waking me up to show it to me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

St. Elmo's Fire

Remember that movie? It had, I think, the entire Brat Pack in it. Ally Sheedy (who knew she once dated Richie Sambora??) and Charlie Sheen's brother Emilio Estevez, and the oh-so-cool Judd Nelson, and Demi Moore pre-Ashton (was he even alive then??) when she still had curves. That movie really has nothing to do with this blog, except that it has the word "fire" in it and this is a post about....but wait, I'm getting ahead of the story here.

Last night at work my partner and I were having our usual friendly debate about what to order in, followed by our usual discussion about our lack of money when we suddenly realized...hey, there might be a connection here....perhaps, just maybe, our lack of money has a little something to do with ordering 20 bucks of Chinese take-out twice a week. We decided then and there to take turns cooking for each other. I said I'd go first. Then one thing led to another and I found myself offering to cook for the air ambulance pilot and the dispatch crew at the police department, too.

So this afternoon I got up earlier than usual, put together a supper of meatball loaves, homemade mac-n-cheese, dinner rolls (not from scratch), mashed potatoes and peanut butter cup pie. Having put everything into either the fridge or the oven as appropriate I went off to take a shower. A few minutes later Big Dog stuck his head around the shower curtain and stared intently at me. Go away, I said, and quit lookin' at me like that. A few minutes later, he came back, growled, and scratched me on the leg with one of his big front paws. (How did he get in the bathroom, you ask? Well, since there's absolutely no HVAC, not even the tiniest of vent fans, in there--which is a whole other story I must save for another time--I leave the door open if no one else is home.) Ivan's afraid of water, so obviously something really important was happening which needed my immediate attention. Or he was trying to redeem himself from his rescue failure during the dining room entrapment incident. So I wrapped a big towel around me, slid into my flip-flops and dripped my way through the back porch and into the kitchen where I saw....through the window in the oven door....flames! If it hadn't been my own kitchen, and if I'd been wearing my bunker gear instead of a towel, this is the size-up I would've given: "658 to Dispatch, we have a light haze of smoke in the kitchen and back porch area, flames showing from the oven, we'll be out on extinguishment." But instead, I went into Girl Mode and raced forward to save the supper. I grabbed a couple of potholders and a tea towel, flung open the oven door, bravely reached through the flames and rescued both the meatballs and the mac-n-cheese! [Safety note: This is by no means what you should do in a similar situation.] Then I slammed the oven door shut and did what every Girl-y Girl does in an emergency. Yep, I called a man. (I pride myself on not being a true Girly-y Girl, but old habits die hard.) In this case, the man was the Assistant Chief of the local fire department. Yeah, the same one where I volunteer.

I said: Jeff, don't laugh, but I got a little fire in my kitchen!
Jeff: Where?
Me: Inside the oven!
Jeff : Well, if you [laughter] if you got the door closed [more laughter] call me back in a couple minutes if it don't burn itself out. [Laughing his butt off.]

And in a couple of minutes, it did burn itself out. But the kitchen was full of smoke up by the ceiling (good thing I have 12-foot ceilings!) and Big Dog was sneezing his Dobie head off. Little Dog and Big Cat were crouching under the kitchen table together, proof that they believed the world was about to end, because they do not get along at all. And I had to leave for work in 15 minutes. So I raced around the smoky kitchen plating up everything, uniformed-up, and then decided I'd better do something about the smoke in the house. I opened the kitchen window--the only one in the whole house not painted shut--and propped it up with my cocktail shaker. Then I opened the front door and raised the window in the back storm door. Then the phone rang.

Jeff: Fire out?
Me: Yessir, out on ventilation.
Jeff: Need us [laughing] to bring over some PPV for ya? (Translation: big fans to blow the smoke out.)
Me: Actually, I would, but I gotta go--
Jeff [interrupting]: How come I don't hear the smoke detectors sounding?
Me: Well, um, see, Chief, um, I kinda don't have any.
Butt-chewing about that followed, but I'll spare you.

Now, you might think that'd be the end of the story. But you'd be wrong. See, when Little Dog and I went outside to pack the car, a draft was created by the one open window in the house. A draft which caused the back door to slam shut behind us and lock itself, and we found ourselves trapped for the second time in two weeks, this time in the back yard. So I snapped out of Girl-y Girl mode right quick, carried Little Dog to the front yard with me, and yanked on the front screen door until I wrenched loose the hook-and-eye holding the door shut. In. In less than sixty seconds. Regular Girl is back.