The latest in my quest to do all the challenges in The Dangerous Book for Boys with my sons in a year … After our last episode in The Dangerous Quest, I asked my sons what they most enjoyed about creating invisible ink. Gabe said it was being able to write a message in urine. Hank said, “You get to burn stuff.” Fortunately, as I noted in my post (see Fire! Flying Urine! Our Most Dangerous Quest Yet), one of the things we did NOT burn down was the house.
After I nearly started a fire by waving a match too close to the paper with the secret writing on it, I remembered an incident from my childhood when I was home with my brother and father. I was twelve, my brother fifteen, and my dad was less than a year away from dying. He was ill with diabetes and related problems, which forced him to retire in his mid-forties as managing editor of the Hayward Daily Review. This was why he was home with us while my mom was off at work. She had returned to her job as a social worker to help pay the bills because my dad couldn’t work anymore.
My dad was fixing hamburgers for us in the kitchen, and I guess the grease from the burgers caused the skillet on the stove to burn. My dad then did the exact wrong thing, sticking the skillet in the sink and turning on the faucet. The water splashed onto the sizzling grease with a hissing sound and burst into flames and smoke. The fire jumped from the skillet onto the kitchen window curtains. While my dad tossed water on the fire, he told my brother to call the fire department. Not having a job to do, I ran down the stairs and out of the house into the street in panic.
My dad succeeded in putting the fire out, but they sent a couple of fire trucks over from the Fairview Fire Station anyway. The trucks sounded their sirens of course, which drew onlookers from all around the neighborhood to see what was the hubbub at the Nelson house. Kids and adults were crowded around the fire trucks, one parked in our driveway and one in the street out front, when my mother drove up. She had come home on her noon hour to have lunch with us.
I’ll never forget the look on her face when she got out of her car. She thought something awful had happened to her husband, and this was why the fire trucks and all the people were there. Finding out the real reason didn’t make her feel that much better.
I thought about this story after the fire incident with my two boys. I told them about it, leaving out some of the personal stuff about my Mom and Dad and focusing on the fire safety lessons. But this is another reason why, despite considerable resistance on my part to the idea of this quest, I’ll continue on with it. It’s helping me brush some of the dust off my childhood too.