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Showing posts with label firemen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label firemen. Show all posts

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Time I Set A Chair On Fire

This is a memory that will stick with me the rest of my life!

The year, 1977 and I remember this time so vividly. I guess because it was such a traumatic event as a young child. I was four years old. One of my favorite things to do next to playing with my toys was watching old reruns of The Carol Burnett Show. I didn’t know they were playing reruns. I just enjoyed watching the comedic skits.

One particular episode I found hilarious was when Tim Conway had a pig nose on and was oinking. I don’t know why I would laugh so hard but I did. My mother would come in the living room and ask why I was laughing so hard. All I could do was point and laugh at the television. I couldn’t talk from laughing.

One day I was watching the comedic-variety show and my mother said it was nap time. I just couldn’t miss the episode so I begged and begged to stay awake. She finally gave in and said I could watch just as long as I stayed really quite. I was told to stay in front of the TV.

My baby sister had just been born not too long previous to that time and it was important to my mother to give her a good nap. I’m sure she was ready for a nap herself because of having a four year old boy and a new born daughter.

I really did enjoy the show.

After the episode was over I became bored. I knew I had to stay in front of the television and was not allowed to leave the living room.

I looked around for something to do but I wasn’t interested in the toy I had at the moment. My parents were smokers at the time and I found myself playing in the ashtray. The ashes and the squished cigarette butts soon lost my interest. I noticed the Bic lighter by the ashtray and promptly picked it up with my small hand, looked around to see if anyone was in the room, and began to flick it.

I wasn’t successful the first few times but I had carefully watched my parents make it work many times before. I knew if they could do it, then so could I.

It seemed so big in my hand and it hurt my little thumb as I rolled the flint wheel. It was almost unbearable. After some strikes, the flame finally held. I was elated! I tried it again and again. I had mastered the art just like my parents. My thumb was begging me to quit.

I gave the old boy a rest while still grasping the lighter in my hand. Looking around the room my eyes rested on an old chair in the corner. The chair was ancient and I knew it because it had an oder like must or mold. It reeked of antiqueness. 

It had fringe lining the bottom of the seat. I saw a single piece of fringe reaching for the floor and seemed to actually call to my four year old ears. “Come to me Robbie, come to me.”

Like a dart I was there, eye to eye with this single little string. Then like an epiphany, I knew I was born to create a single moment of dancing between the lighter I held and the tiny string. I was a match maker!

I carefully lifted the lighter in my hand and with a stroke, the flame appeared. I held the button down hard and silently said fair well to the lonely string. Then I did it! I sent that little fella to it’s eternity.

I never saw something disappear so fast in my whole four years. It was gone! But it wouldn’t go alone. It seemed to want to take a few more friends with it as it flew away.

The other obedient fringe grabbed the little flame and began to pass it one to the next. All I could do was watch the flame spread. What do I do? I have to blow it out!

I sucked in some air and gave it a good blow. The flame just spread even more. Try again! It got worse!

Wind would not do its magic to extinguish the flame. I thought I was a smart four year old boy and quickly searched my mind for what to do. I had it finally. An idea so ingenious that if employed no one would ever know I set the old chair on fire.

It was water! I remember from preschool the firetruck coming and the whole class got to go outside and see. The firemen in their uniforms extended the ladder on the truck to the heavens. I imagined myself climbing to the top.

The heroes showed us the truck and how it worked. How it hooked up to the fire hydrant and pumped the flood to put out fires. I dreamed of being a hero and saving lives.

Well here was my chance.

I ran down the long hall, or it seemed long to me, and skittered across the black and white kitchen tiles to the sink. That’s where the water was. I couldn’t reach the sink to turn it on and then I knew I needed a chair. I ran to the table and with all I had, I pushed a kitchen chair to the sink.

I climbed up on the chair and filled it full of water. I had it! That’s what firemen need to put out a fire and I was on my way to victory.

Running through the swinging kitchen door and down the hallway, I left a trail of water. By the time I got back to the old chair I couldn’t believe my eyes.

The entire ancient throne was engulfed with flames that seemed to laugh at me. Thick smoke covered the ceiling out of view and it rose forever.

I threw the little water I had on the fire. It wasn’t enough. I went back for more. That for sure wasn’t enough. The fire was worse.

So what did this fireman do? I ran back toward the kitchen, through the swinging door and on to the back of the house behind my bed. I was hoping it would just disappear.

Quickly smoke had filled the house and caused my baby sister to cough. Her cough made my mother wake up and she ran to the living room where she saw the old chair on fire.

She was a firewoman! She got a large pitcher and filled it to the brim with water. Making several quick trips, the fire was finally out. She had to open the door and windows to let all the smoke out.

The old chair was no more and left soot from the fire on the wall. I don’t know what happened to the old chair. I think it was probably a good surprise for the garbage man that week.

My mother told me to stay in my bed and to wait for my father to get home. I knew she was so mad she would kill me if she laid hands on me. I wished she would so maybe my father wouldn’t get hold of me. I knew it was coming. I was going to die like the old chair. I was terrified and just cried in my bed until I fell asleep.

Next I knew, my blurry eyes opened to my father saying my name. “Wake up!” There he was in his camouflage outfit. He was in the military and towered over me like a general.

Fear shot through me. I could hear him talking but I couldn’t understand. I was so afraid and I was just thinking how I didn’t want to die. The adrenaline stung my body and my heart pounded. At any moment he was going to grab me by the arm, swing me over like a rag, and give me a spanking I knew would be my last.

He didn’t do that. Probably because I had forgotten all about the beating my mother gave me before I went to sleep. It was shock that hid the memory of my mom’s beating.

He had the lighter in his hand and just raised it up in front of his face. He said “Look at this.” Then he flicked the lighter and I saw the familiar flame. While it burned in his hand he said, “This little fire could have killed you, your mother, and your little sister. Would you want that?”

I said “No.”

I can’t remember what he said to me after that. I just remember it being so threatening I must have buried it in the deep darkness of my little mind. I also remember the relief of him not spanking me.

To this day, just about every time I flick a lighter, that memory flashes through my mind at the speed of light or faster. Almost as fast as that little string disappeared.

#fire #childhood #memories #truestory

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