a ~ Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

These days we aren’t lighting fires for warmth. It’s purely a comfort thing. B and I, in the midst of a Tuesday or Thursday when we are at home and the rest of the world is occupied elsewhere, we pack newspaper under the grate and logs on top and ignore the lack of kindling and somehow it starts.

“Can I light it?” he asks.

“Nope. Only moms and dads. Only grown-ups.”

“But why?”

“So you’ll be safe.”

Because every parent has that thing of which they are the most afraid and for me it’s fire. You wouldn’t be able to tell, probably, if you came to visit. We have no fire ladders. For long stretches of time we have had no smoke alarms, though at the moment they are well installed, as evidenced by my very loud preparations of broiled steak the other night. But I have known nights of lying awake planning escape routes for every boy in case of fire. Okay, I think. I can carry B. L is capable of jumping from great heights, so he can scoot out the window and meet me in the driveway. But T – T is all the way down the hall and his window looks out on far lower ground than his brother’s and he is also more afraid of things like leaping to your own possible demise. Okay, I think. I can toss B out to L and L will catch B just like a baseball and then I will run to T and somehow produce damp towels and we will crawl….

I know. Crazy times.

Where is M in all this, the husband whose duty it is to save his family? I assume he’s working late, or on a business trip, or has perhaps been overcome by fumes. I plan for the worst.

But still, I like to light a fire on a gray mid-day. I ignore whispers of “chimney fire” drifting down the chute and snuggle up with a boy and a book.

About andi

Writer, editor, wrangler of small boys and dogs.


  1. mdiehn

    Jesus, deaaaar….

  2. Cynthia Brosnan

    Mommy fears ~ I wish there was a cure ~ but as long as we and they live!

  3. Andi:
    I can tell we’re related . . . . I’ve had a an almost unhealthy fear of fire since hosing down the old Forges Green house roof when I was 13 or 14, and the Pine Hills were ablaze with a wildfire. Later on, I was always very uncomfortable when your grandfather would let his burning pipe fall on the carpet and kick it out – or would leave the unattended fire to burn down, with coals escaping and burning the map room rug. The use of newspapers rolled and made into “pretzels” to use as techniques was one of the tricks that he obviously passed on to all of us – spanning the generations. I love reading your blogs; it spurs me to try to make my own musings come alive online more frequently. Much love to Mike and the boys – hopefully i’ll make it back east in the late fall to see you all.
    Much love,

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