Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What Goes Through Your Mind When You Think You Might Die

The first thing was "I didn't even say good-bye to the boys."

When I was 10, I had a paper route. On weekends, the papers had to be out by 6:00 am. On those the cold and silent winter mornings, as I trudged through the snow and the wet with the weight of my loaded satchel bumping rhythmically against my legs, the darkness was complete; relieved only by the streetlamps and an occasional porch light. I was never scared, but I hurried along, anxious to be done with the job and get back to my warm bed.

I suppose it's no surpise then, that one morning, I delivered a paper to a house in which all the occupants; mother, father, grandmother and baby, had all perished in a fire the night before while I slept safely and soundly in my own home just down the street.

I didn't notice anything amiss. The crispness of the winter air held not the faintest whiff of anything sinister. I didn't feel anything foreboding or unsettling or sad as I climbed the front steps and placed the paper between the two doors. I didn't notice the depression in the snow where the baby had landed when the grandmother, desperately trying to save him from the flames, threw him out the window.

Nobody had heard the sirens wailing. Nobody had seen or smelled the smoke. Those people died while their neighbors slept, unaware of the tragedy unfolding just steps away from their own doors.

Since then, I have had a deep and abiding horror of dying in a fire. When I moved to the city 20 years ago, I wouldn't even consider living in a high rise apartment building and I turned down several jobs because the offices were located in skyscrapers. If a fire breaks out below you, there is nothing to do but jump. And that is prospect that still turns my blood to icewater and twists my stomach into a desperate and diabolical knot.

The fear that has never left me, but it has abated a bit over time.

This morning, that fear came back to me with sickening swiftness as husband and I were awoken from our blissful slumber on the 8th floor of the Westin Peachtree by the electronic shriek of the fire alarm.

The alarm was interrupted by a hotel wide broadcast.

"Attention Guests. We are aware that the fire alarm has been activated. The Fire Response Team is investigating. Please await further instructions."

I was not disposed to await further instructions. I said as much to husband who agreed.

We dressed hurriedly and I frantically gathered up our belongings.

And that's when I was hit by the realization that I had not said good-bye to the boys. I hadn't told them I loved them. They were engaged in a cutthroat game of ping pong when it came time for us to leave them with the friends who would be keeping them overnight. They are older now, and long past the age of needing assurances that we would be coming back. And so we simply left.

Husband said gently, "Baby, leave it, it's not important. We've got to go."

I nodded and grabbed my wedding ring off of the bedside table. "Everything else can be replaced" I thought, but on the heels of that thought came another, silly, senseless one. "But I just bought that outfit!!". Along similar lines, I was already lamenting the loss of my favorite sandals. They are deep brown silk embroidered with gold, bronze and silver thread and appliqued in a paisly design. I also thought regretfully of the hundred dollar bottle of wine I had bought Husband last Christmas. We had brought it with us to toast our anniversary.

"We can't just leave all our stuff!!" I said.

"We'll be back. It's just a false alarm."

"You don't KNOW that!" I wailed.

"Baby, it's going to be fine. Let's GO." He was trying to be calm, but I heard the urgency in his voice. He was as frightened as I was.

We left our room and made for the stairwell. Other guests were doing the same and everybody wore that peculiar expression of outward calm that suggests barely restrained panic. Once inside the stairwell, I was instantly reminded of all those people who lost their lives in the stairwell of the World Trade center while trying to escape the fire, the smoke, the imminent collapse. It made me feel trembly and breathless. I tried to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

I told myself over and over that it was silly to panic. It was a kid, a prank, some illicit cigarette smoke. It was NOT a sweeping inferno that would soon engulf us in flames.

It wasn't, dammit.

But I wasn't having much luck getting through to myself, and neither apparently, was the woman in front of me on the stairs. She banged her small pullman down on each step and jerked it viciously around the corners. Husband commented that she looked pissed off in the extreme, but I thought her anger was simply a mask behind which lurked the hysteria of complete and total terror.

There were people carrying sleepy eyed children and I was once again reminded of my boys. I hoped I would see them again and then, I berated myself for the fatalistic thought.

We exited onto a cobbled terrace in the rear of the hotel. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze blowing. The small man made lake in front of us rippled and sparkled. It's the kind of day on which it seems like an awful injustice to die.

But fire or no fire, we were out. My heart slowed and the quaking in my limbs stilled.

After about 20 minutes we were allowed back into the hotel. Everything was fine, apparently. But the emotional aftermath was obvious on the faces of all the guests who milled about in the lobby. It's hell to wake up fearing for your life.

Later, when we picked up the boys, the first thing I said to each of them was "I love you."

They both gave me a strange look and then looked at one another. Pre-Pubescent One said "Um. It was just one night Mom."

I know. But it taught me a very important thing.

Always say good-bye.

27 Comments:

  • At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Kvetch said…

    Exactly.

    My ex was with my kids when he died. The first thing my son said to me?

    "He didn't even say good-bye."

     
  • At 3:41 PM, Blogger slouching mom said…

    oof -- kvetch's comment.

    so glad it was a false alarm.

    and that's definitely good advice.

     
  • At 3:42 PM, Blogger Amy York said…

    Happy to hear you are Ok... And thanks for the reminder!

     
  • At 4:02 PM, Blogger Irreverent Antisocial Intellectual said…

    I've done the facing death thing before. Too many times. But then I was young, stupid, carefree and willing to die for a mission or a cause or because I was trying to prove I had balls.

    Now? With a kid?
    The last time I had to fly off somewhere I got the jitters. On a regular ol' Delta flight up to DC.

    What can I say? Priorities change. Instead of remembering to say goodbye, now I just don't leave. Only stateside billets for now on. I'm washed up and proud of it.

    Mommyhood will do that.

    Glad you ain't dead. :-) And for what it's worth? Fires don't creep me out as much as drowning to death. Ugh. I think I'd prefer jumping from a skyscraper to trying to break out of my submerged car.
    Shudder.

     
  • At 6:16 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    I am glad you're ok, and goodbye is important but I love you? Even moreso

     
  • At 6:54 PM, Anonymous Antique Mommy said…

    Don't kid yourself. Even when you've said goodbye, it doesn't do anything towards filling up that giant gaping hole in your life. What is important is everything that you've done and said up to that point.

     
  • At 8:32 PM, Blogger Pgoodness said…

    Glad it was a false alarm. And yes, saying goodbye and I love you, so important and a good reminder. So sad about that family from your childhood.

     
  • At 11:13 PM, Blogger Cathy said…

    You just tapped into one of my worst fears with this post.

     
  • At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Kelley said…

    *shudder*
    Off to check my smoke alarms and text my daughter who is staying with friends.....
    Glad you are OK.

     
  • At 12:49 AM, Blogger Tracey said…

    I loathe fires. But not as much as tornadoes. Hence, the reason a simple fall rainstorm has kept me up until 12:45 am...

     
  • At 12:50 AM, Blogger creative-type dad said…

    Yikes! How scary...

    Happy to hear it was a false alarm.

     
  • At 5:10 AM, Anonymous Manda said…

    I think when we're faced with the harsh reality of a situation, the thoughts of what we forgot to do race through our heads. When I rolled my car 3 times and was in/out of being aware I do clearly remember telling the police officer that if anything happened tell my family I love them. That's all I thought about was my family.

     
  • At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Jenny said…

    When I was just out of high school one of my friends died in an apartment fire. He was trapped and got into the bathtub and filled it with water but of course, it couldn't save him.

    Since then I've had the same fear.

    It will probably follow me forever.

     
  • At 2:08 PM, Blogger painted maypole said…

    My husband lost everything but himself an his 5 cats in a housefire before we were married. It definately teaches you what to value.

     
  • At 4:59 PM, Blogger Jen M. said…

    Wow. Way to make me cry in the middle of my kid's nap. Thanks.

    Great post.

     
  • At 5:16 PM, Blogger Phoenix said…

    Oh shit....I'm glad it was a false alarm.

    All throughout my bratty teen years, my mom always said I love you when she dropped us off, hung up the phone or just left the house. I used to think she was mental, but I now understand why. She always wants us to know, just in case.

     
  • At 7:32 PM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite said…

    Mesmerizing post, BA. I love the way you describe your morning paper route - nothing amiss. It's too humbling to think that life goes on in the face of death, but it does. Every day.

    Thanks for the reminder.

     
  • At 7:59 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Only you could turn a false alarm in to a beautiful story that made my heart skip a beat.

     
  • At 8:08 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    The idea of a baby being thrown out a window into the snow is heartbreaking. Even worse to know that baby didn't live.

    Glad you are ok. Thanks for the reminder. Often, if the kids are being pains getting to sleep, I'll lie awake and think that if we all die overnight, my last words to them will have been angry (for some reason, I'm terribly afraid of an intruder---it is one reason I want a big ol' dog).

     
  • At 8:18 PM, Blogger Christine said…

    I had to evacuate a hotel once due to a false fire alarm; I was terrified..it was before kids. I know now I don't know terror.

    My mom taught me that, BA...always say good-bye. AND 'I love you.' ALWAYS.

     
  • At 8:48 PM, Blogger Jenn said…

    Yes, always say goodbye.

    And I love you.

    And mean it.

     
  • At 12:45 AM, Blogger jen said…

    oh wow. how scary. i am so glad everything is ok - and your reminder struck me to the bone, because all we really have is this one moment in time. we've got to use it wisely.

     
  • At 5:11 AM, Anonymous Sandra said…

    So scary!

    And such sage advice. I needed to hear that today.

     
  • At 7:40 AM, Anonymous pinks & Blues Girls said…

    Being in a fire is one of my biggest fears, too. So scary. Glad it was a false alarm.

    Jane, Pinks & Blues

     
  • At 10:37 AM, Blogger Wife Soup said…

    Wow! Your story really brought me into that moment with you. I am so glad it was a false alarm. Nothing like that to remind us about what it really important.

     
  • At 1:05 PM, Blogger Rock the Cradle said…

    The baby in the snow...damn.

    A hell of an image to be haunted by. And no wonder. How completely horribly random.

    Which is why I say "I love you" to the Impling every night.

     
  • At 9:04 PM, Blogger Angela said…

    Now I need to go think of something happy
    My husband got in a car accident today and those are the types of thoughts going through my head

     

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