The food was wonderful.
The company was lovely.
And the firemen were very, very nice.
I write these words from the two-and-a-half star comfort of the Residence Inn, a stomping grounds for the temporarily displaced. It is where I am likely to be spending the next several weeks. And that is the last snarky thing I'm going to say about it (for now), as I am fully aware that if I were a resident of certain areas of the Philippines, I sure as hell would not be staying in a kitchenette efficiency while an army of guys rebuilt my house.
I am sitting here, eating a slice of somebody else's pumpkin pie, topped by a veritable mountain of whipped cream, fresh from the can, which - if one more thing had gone wrong last week - would be going directly up my nose.
What happened was this:
- Last Thursday, my family and I enjoyed a delightful Thanksgiving dinner in our home;
- On Thursday night, we all lapsed - happily - into food comas;
- One Friday morning, I woke up at 4:30 am;
- Because I smelled smoke;
- The cause of which elicited an unplanned visit from a big truck with flashing lights and several burly local firemen.
"Do you know that there are women who only 'do' firemen?" my daughter asked me.
"Actually, yes, I know that. It explains why there is no lack of volunteer firemen anywhere on earth."
The fire was in the attic, an empty crawlspace atop our one-story domicile. Yes, we have smoke detectors, none of which sounded an alarm - in spite of my non-dereliction of duty in changing the batteries and testing them, just the day before - since the fire was in the attic, and smoke rises.
(Allow me to get quite serious at this time and implore everyone who has an attic - crawlspace or no - to install a smoke detector in it RIGHT NOW. Pay somebody to wire the alarm to your living quarters, no matter how much it costs. Don't try to save money here. Dead men don't go shopping.)
So the firemen came and did what firemen do, surely inspired by my husband's reassurances that we are, indeed, "boosters", a quaint custom that exists in small towns governed by cheap-ass Republican rat bastards wherein the citizenry can opt to contribute monetarily to support their own (volunteer) fire departments. It is now my experience that this is not an ideal situation.
The firemen came and then went away, leaving us all with a good story to tell our grandchildren, and the whole of Black Friday ahead of us to go out and do some Christmas shopping, should we be so inclined.
Which we were not. If we were, we'd have nothing left.
But, wait! There's more...
At 4:30 Friday afternoon, I went outside for a cigarette. This is the first and only time in your life you will ever hear somebody say, "Thank God I smoke!" Well, thank God I smoke. Because it was then when I noticed the other smoke - the smoke pouring out of our attic vents.
We grabbed what we could and ran out of the house.
The firemen came back, this time with two big trucks with flashing lights, more burly firemen, and a plethora of various emergency vehicles. The hook-and-ladder was supposed to be transporting Santa to light the town Holiday Tree to the delight of the Town Children, but it was at my house instead, a fact that was conveyed to us by the Fire Chief, who sure has some great people skills.
A long night it was, watching fire fighters douse my bedroom with a big, honking hose ("Please, not my second-hand Ferragamos!"), talking to insurance people, and praying to heaven that my three cats had found safe haven in the basement and would be all right.
They were. We all were.
The bad news is:
- I am out of my home for the next several weeks;
- Because it is not in livable condition;
- Which, in my more sober moments, freaks me out a bit;
- And all the plans I made for the holidays;
- Are gone. Not entirely. But still.
The good news is:
- I'm getting major portions of my house remodeled. For free. My husband likes to remind me that it's not free, since we have been shelling out significant amounts of money to an insurance company for the last 20 years, but I did not write those checks and, as far as I'm concerned, it's free;
- The disaster restoration people (yes, I said "disaster restoration") ripped out the deplorable rag of a wall-to-wall carpet in my living room, labeling it as "unsalvageable". I could have told them that it's been unsalvageable for a good deal more than a decade, and only continued to cover my floor due to the fact that my husband is certifiably insane. But I didn't. And now it's gone. Forever. Whoo-hoo. And I've stopped the divorce proceedings;
- I am officially off-the-hook for Christmas. I can give anybody, anything. And they will like it, or hate themselves;
- I get to go shopping. A lot;
- I also get to drink with relative impunity, having an indisputably valid excuse. "My house burned down," I said to my son after a couple of martinis on Sunday night, over dinner. "To be fair, this is pretty standard," he replied. But he is my son, and I still love him.
That's my story. My access to computers is somewhat limited for now, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the joyous solstice celebration of their choice.
The next thing I'm going to write is a letter to Santa, asking him to let me submit my receipt for my new Ralph Lauren boots to the insurance company.
You never know...