By Lorry Myers
Our house was big, big enough to hold two parents and six kids with very few doors and plenty of places to hide. That old house was sanctuary, a giant fortress where felt I sheltered and protected.
All safe and sound.
Then one night while we were sleeping in our beds, cold rain from a two-day storm seeped underneath that old house, filling the running floor furnace outside my parent’s downstairs bedroom. While our sleep was filled with dreams, the house was slowly filling with smoke.
My mom couldn’t explain what woke her up and I never understood it until I had children sleeping over my head as well. Mothers are light sleepers always listening for muffled cries or bad dreams or babies needing a warm bottle. My mom would come check if she heard a sigh in the night and could easily identify whose footsteps were falling on the stairs.
Now…what was that smell?
It took only a few seconds for my mother to realize what the smell and haze in her bedroom meant. She unsteadily crawled from the bed, her hoarse shouts finally waking my father. My brother’s crib was by their bed and my mother clutched that baby to her chest as my father felt their way through the veil of smoke to their other sleeping children. Upstairs, they stumbled from room to room shaking everyone out of bed and into action.
“The house is on fire! We need to get out!”
My father led the way, down the stairs and out the door, through the pouring rain into our car that he started to keep us warm.
Then, my parents went back into the burning house.
Time seems so long when you wait. Five wide-eyed children were beginning to think that no one would walk out that familiar doorway again. Finally, our mother stumbled from the house coughing and eyes running. Her arms were full of blankets and diapers and my father followed with the desk drawer that held important papers. after
“I have to go back,” Dad said, and then he was gone before he could hear my mother cry, “We have all we need.”
We waited; our faces pressed against the windows of the station wagon. By the time my father lunged out into the rain, choking and gasping, my mother was softly crying. Dad opened the car door and laid a bundle in my oldest sister’s lap. In the distance, we could hear sirens so my parents left us again to direct the firemen and watch their home burn.
My sister turned on the interior light, curious to see what our father had gone through a burning house to save. The bundle was wrapped in what appeared to be a worn cloth diaper hastily snagged to protect the contents from the rain. My sister sniffed the cloth and it would then and forever after, smell of smoke. When the diaper was peeled back there in a sturdy cardboard folder, were our baby pictures.
Every one of them.
For the complete article see this week’s edition of the Centalia Fireside Guard.