Thursday, December 20, 2007

Preparing for a new year

Well, just as we sent off our Christmas letters complaining about our uneventful year, we've had some late breaking news. I'd like to send an addendum out to all who received the letter and add our latest excitement to the list for 2007.

On Sunday, after having an excellent potluck with friends from the neighborhood the night before, I got right to work cleaning up the house and washing dishes so I could return everyone's pots and pans.

10:30 rolled around and I was so happy to find myself all tidied up and with almost an entire day to wrap presents, bake Christmas goodies, read, scrapbook, or enjoy a movie.

I headed out with the first of the pots to our neighbours across the way. Since I had the whole day to do all the nothing I wanted, I happily accepted the offer for a cup of tea with our new neighbours.

Less than an hour later, as I was saying my good byes, I saw my husband drive up and walked across the road to meet him. He hadn't seen me, but I was surprised to hear his panicked voice calling my name just moments after... and suddenly, there was something else, a shrill sound. The smoke detector.

I yelled for Brad and saw him on his cell phone explaining to dispatch where we lived and panicked as I saw black smoke pouring out our front door. A horrible feeling overcame me as Brad asked, "what were you cooking?" (because apparently I've burned down houses before with my meals) but I was filled with dread as I wondered, "could I have left something on?"

A moment of doubt as I raced through the possibilities in my mind and then I knew I hadn't left anything on, it shouldn't be coming from the kitchen. The tree, I thought. You always hear of Christmas trees igniting at this time of year. The wood burning stove. Maybe it lit up again and the door was open. The dryer downstairs. I had put in a load of laundry before I left.

As the smoke poured out the front and back doors, things began to clear a little in the house and Brad saw that the fire was coming from downstairs. Neighbours began to arrive and soon, Brad decided to go into the house with a fire extinguisher. He'd seen the flames and knew he could get to them before the fire department arrived. He went in with a neighbour right behind him. A moment later they were back outside and confirmed it was near the furnace, downstairs.

The fire trucks pulled up next and four volunteers jumped out ready to help. They knocked down the rest of the fire and shovelled up the remains of our reject Christmas ornaments and one old ski pole and put fans in the house right away. As the smoke cleared, we could see that the fire had been small, but the smoke damage was extensive. The entire house and all of its contents were covered in a layer of soot.

The next days were filled with phone calls, arrangements, laundry, and shock. Unfortunately, we'll be out of our house for awhile, but so many of our friends and neighbours have volunteered their homes, their washing machines, and their well wishes, that we have been overwhelmed with the support.

Today, just a few short days later, the cleaners have taken most of our belongings to see what's cleanable and what can't be salvaged, the furnace and hot water tank have been replaced and the ducts cleaned, and the painters are on stand by, ready to move in as soon as the walls are clean. Bailey is slightly clingy and doesn't like confined spaces, but the newfound cuddliness is welcome. Brad and I are fine and are both relieved that the fire wasn't bigger.

Our excitement may have come too late for our Christmas letter, but it arrived just in time for the new year. We will be starting out 2008 with an immaculately clean house, a fresh coat of paint, cupboards restocked with goods, freshly laundered clothes, bedding, and furniture, and a new awareness of our neighbours, family, and friends' kindness.

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