Thursday, October 25, 2007

Close calls

Today I was in the room Nora and Gabie share, changing Nora’s diaper before her nap, when I smelled a strange odor (I mean something other than the contents of the diaper I was changing). It struck me as a vaguely familiar smell but I couldn’t quite place it. My first thought was: “I wonder what Gabie has been playing with in here.” He’s quite the chemist lately, mixing batches of “Super Cleaner” out of lotion, water, soap, scraps of construction paper thrown in for color, etc.

But I couldn’t quite identify the odor and it was very faint, so I mentally shelved it, assuming I’d figure it out later. I was just about to put Nora down in her crib and leave the room when I remembered what the smell made me think of: ironing clothes. This was an odd connection because (true confession) I rarely iron clothes. Maybe once a month I do a bit of emergency spot work, but that’s it. God sent me to earth during the age of the wrinkle-free garment for a reason. But the really strange thing is that I had just ironed something this morning. Ken was running late for work and he was in charge of a big training meeting today, so I had pity on him and volunteered to clear the ironing board of its perpetual 20 pound layer of draped clothing and iron his shirt. Anyway, I’m not sure if I would have recognized the smell in Gabie’s room if it weren’t for the fresh association in my head.

I sniffed my way around the room and then checked all the electrical outlets and that’s when I discovered that Gabie had plugged in a little lamp, buried it under the quilt on his bed, and LEFT IT ON. The quilt fabric was scorching hot and a new package of diapers that had been sitting at the foot of Gabie’s bed had begun to melt. When I lifted the quilt to expose the lamp, a puff of smoke rose into the air.

I unplugged the lamp and dealt with the melted diapers and quilt and then I sat down with Nora in my arms and let my heart stop pounding. I didn’t want to think about what would have happened if I had left Nora in her crib, walked out, and closed the door. No, actually I did want to think about it. In fact I’ve been stirring the scenario around in my brain ever since. Smoldering quilt. Wooden bed. Smoke-filled room. Sleeping baby. . .

Then this evening, Ken was on the roof dismantling the old swamp cooler. McKay was climbing up the ladder to join him and I was a few feet away with Nora and Gabie. Suddenly, the ladder tipped over and McKay was hanging there, holding onto the edge of the roof, his legs dangling in the air. It could have been a comic moment from a Keystone Cops film if it weren’t for the fact that it was my 9-year old son holding on for dear life. I dashed over and put the ladder under him and helped him down. He was definitely upset. But it speaks for his resilient character that he insisted on going back up once he had calmed down for a minute. I held the ladder, of course.

So now it’s 11 pm and everyone is asleep but me. I’ve checked on all the kids and they are still breathing. Sometimes at night I am hit with an overwhelming sense of relief when I can finally say that we’ve all made it through another day, safe and sound.

There’s a print by Käthe Kollwitz—a very dramatic image of death sweeping down from the sky to seize the throats of two terrified children. My favorite part of the scene? The little girl darting off to the left. I wonder how much of life is made up of narrow escapes. Some that we probably don’t even realize. And some that make us grateful for the small miracles that keep us here.

14 comments:

mindyluwho said...

Just reading your post makes my heart stop! What I am grateful for is the Spirit that whispers to us to check just one more time, thus preventing a tragedy. I have told my kids many times, that it will be interesting to see, when we get to the other side, just how often we were preserved and didn't even know it.

Goslyn said...

Oh, Julie. Just reading the post brought tears to my eyes for what could have been - but thankfully wasn't.

I'm glad everyone is ok after such a scary day.

Jennifer B. said...

That was too close! I often wonder how often we are spared. I'm glad to be at the beginning of another day. (And it's Friday no less--Hooray!)

Kimberly said...

I just about cried, thinking of how I'd feel in the same circumstances. I take our safety for granted too often, I think.

Sheela said...

oh. my. god.
to think that the safest place you can leave your baby is her room and to find out that you cannot always take that for granted is very scary.
am glad you noticed, am glad everybody is OK.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

It is things like this that make me check on my children multiple times at night. Thank heavens everything is ok.

Gill said...

What a frightening day. I am so glad it all turned out okay in the end. It makes you want to hug those you love just that little bit tighter, doesn't it?

~*Country Dawn*~ said...

Those close calls... eek! I've had stuff like that happen, and your heart just seems to stop, and your breath turns to glass in your throat...

I love that print, btw. I've never seen that one. I love her drawings, all those thick black lines...

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Sounds like a very scary day for you. I'm sorry those two events happened. Thankfully both of your children are fine. Has your heart stopped pounding yet?

Ann Kroeker said...

Oh! I am so glad for the niggle or nudge that sent you sniffing for answers, and then positioned you there with the ladder.

I feel a little shaky walking so vividly through it with you here on the blog.

You are safe. You are all safe.

Put the heart defibrillator away for now. You are all safe.

Heffalump said...

I am glad things worked out and that everyone stayed safe.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Close moments like these leave me terrified for days. Just this summer my little man, while swimming in a shallow wading pool, went under water for a little bit until we realized what happened. Even now it still makes my heart race ... I hope all of our kids live long, healthy lives!

Jenna said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I am so grateful all is well. And can I just say? You are so incredible with writing, and your knowledge about art. You make me think and think, and look more closely. Just love your blog.

Theresa said...

All those small miracles. Adding up. Every day. Thanks for reminding me to be grateful for them. And to check out that artist. What a statement!