Today began uneventfully: folding laundry, tickling Toby, nothing out of the usual except finding that I had run out of my favorite bread mix and trying a different mix in the bread machine. I made lunch, I ran a homeschool, and I cleaned up the house in anticipation of some guests this evening.
But I was jolted from the routine bathroom cleaning when I suddenly whiffed something burning. An overdose of adrenaline immediately flooded my body. I've been afraid of a fire in this house since the day we moved in. "Fire escape" was as much a priority in the blueprints of this house as electrical wiring. All four kids were upstairs! I rushed around the circle of our first floor and didn't spy any fire or smoke so I flew up the stairs and called to the girls as I glanced in each room, "Girls! Come downstairs right now. Mommy smells something burning."
They obeyed immediately, and with them safely lined up by the back door I rushed to the basement. Not the dryer. Not the furnace. Not the wiring overhead. Where was that smell coming from? Whenever I found one level of the house clear I feared that fire was breaking out in the level I wasn't on. I rushed back up to find the kids still waiting, wide-eyed at the back door. The first floor was filled with the stench now. It smelled like a rubber spatula I had once left on a stove burner and melted. I took a closer look now at the kitchen and thought it must be coming from something there. Not the stove top, not the oven, not the refrigerator, not the microwave, not the coffee maker, but I went around unplugging things just to be sure.
I put coats and shoes on the kids and marched them around the house to see if we could see any smoke coming from outside. Back inside the smell was stronger than ever. At a loss, I called my dad (with the kids still lined up at the back door). He had me pull fuses, check the furnace fan belt, and look more closely at wiring. The smell was still growing. Finally we decided I should just leave the house and call the landlady. Just as I was agreeing to this I took one last trip around the kitchen, sniffing with my stench-filled nose. And suddenly I felt very silly.
Fortunately my parents laughed with me, and I hadn't called the landlady out for burnt bread. The kids quickly gathered around to gawk as I pulled the singed pan from the machine, and I used the opportunity to reinforce some lessons about fire safety. I praised the girls for obeying me quickly and being ready in case it had been a real fire.
"You know, Mommy," Naomi added, "there was one more good thing that came out of all this."
"Oh really, honey, what's that?" I asked.
"Well, Hannah and I were just fighting over who would do a puzzle when you came up," she explained, "and you made us forget to fight."
It does put things in perspective, doesn't it?