You know how they say things come in threes? Well, this week I finally added a third kitchen fire to my list of accomplishments.
Yes, you heard me right. I’ve started three kitchen fires in my “quasi” adult life. And I’m not a professional cook.
I know that fire is a serious thing. I was a Girl Scout and often assigned the job of “woodie” as a camper. (Stop snickering, you dirty minded readers. A woodie is someone who gathers fire wood, starts the fires, maintains the fire-water bucket complete with stick so small critters can escape, and most importantly, cleans the latrines…)
I also know that there are many people who have been victims of fires in their life and who have had their person or property damaged by fire. My heart goes out to those folks, and I would never treat those types of situations lightly. But humor in life helps assuage tragedy and so I share my own rather ridiculous fire related stories with thankfulness as a way to laugh at my perpetual mishaps.
The first fire-related incident took place over Thanksgiving many years ago. I was about 16 or 17 at the time and was helping my mother set the table for dinner. Reaching over a candle, with what I thought was enough clearance, I set an item down for the place setting, then wondered aloud, “What is that smell? Is something (meaning food) burning?”
The response my parents gave me was not what I expected. Out of what seemed like nowhere, they threw me on the ground and started beating at me. Apparently, I was on fire. Smelling the singed ends of my hair afterwards, I realized that the sleeves of my 80’s style polyester sweater had just grazed the candle, allowing flame to travel up my arm to the tips of my hair. Remarkably, aside from my hair and my pride, there was no damage. The sweater had some crazy chemical layer that had burned off; not a mark remained. My family loves to recall this event, dredging it up when I set the table near an open flame or reminiscing fondly over turkey about the time I caught myself on fire.
It was probably about 12 years later, in a townhouse apartment that I shared with my husband, that I started my next kitchen fire. Absentmindedly preparing a BLT dinner, I had wandered into our dining/living area when I heard a loud bang in the kitchen and ran in to see open flames on the stove. I had set a dinner plate on a hot burner and it had heated and shattered, setting the bacon greased towel and bacon pieces that it contained aflame. I seem to remember my husband dealing with this particular incident as I reacted hysterically. Amazingly, once I catch things afire in the kitchen, I mentally block the aftermath.
Not quite 5 years later, (though I am averaging one fire per decade of my life so far) this week, I completed the cursed trio of kitchen fires. Having a productive morning of baking three batches of zucchini bread with my daughter, making homemade smoothies and lemonade, cutting up the week’s fruit produce for easy eating, doing multiple loads of dishes, and cleaning up my daughter V’s flour sensory play, I popped some boxed mac & cheese on the stovetop for lunch.
While the water boiled, I busily vacuumed the flour mess off of my daughter’s booster seat and argued with her over the use of the vacuum only to have my senses send me a warning message as I said “What’s that smell?” I turned around to find the cardboard mac & cheese box tipped into the gas flame burner and burning at an alarmingly quick rate. I gasped, grabbed the box, threw it in the sink to douse with water, then opened all the windows and turned on fans to dissipate the smoke.
V was all in a dither. “What’s the problem Mommy!” “What’s on fire?” “Come here Mommy, I show you where the fire lives.” (Note to self: fire belongs in the fireplace. Even a two year old knows that…stupid, STUPID Mommy!) Apparently, “you light a fire, you have a little picnic, then you blow it all out.” That’s what you are SUPPOSED to do with fire.
Lesson learned, V.
Evidently, I have a problem in the kitchen. Or I am cursed. Hopefully, with the culmination of my third fire experience, I’ll be a little more aware and a little less distracted in the kitchen. But with each mishap, I have to admit the dreamy, crazy multitasking aspects of my nature haven’t much changed. Perhaps my husband should kick me out of the kitchen as a potential hazard to people and property. Here’s hoping.
I hope you enjoyed a laugh with me today, but seriously, if you don’t have a kitchen fire extinguisher on hand, and you plan to invite me over…you are taking your chances. Get a fire extinguisher, check the batteries and operation of your smoke detectors, and stay alert while cooking. I’ve learned these lessons firsthand and thankfully, I’m here to share them with you today!