In my family, we love food. We are big eaters and big people. So at times, I feel bad about my culinary deficiencies and I will attempt to cook something on the stove or in the oven.
It was one of my first attempts to make eggplant parm. To make it a little healthier – and safer - I decided to bake it in our electric oven instead of frying it. As I started to bread the pieces, the girls took their place at the kitchen table to do their homework; the dog was by my side waiting for any scraps that might fall to the floor. With her concentrated stares, she was making me feel nervous. I stopped prepping dinner and left the kitchen area to feed her and get back a little working space.
As if there were fireworks for my return to the kitchen, a bright flash of fire appeared in the oven window followed by a booming crackling, sizzle and pop.
In my usual dramatic fashion I yelled out a loud and high-pitched screech, equal to what a fire alarm might sound like. I threw my hands over my gaping mouth and stood there for a beat or two with my eyes bulging, trying to decide what to do next. I worried that if I opened the oven door, the contained fire would spread - I opted not to do this.
I reached only one conclusion – to get us all out of the house. As the flames continued to lick the inside of the oven, I grabbed the girls by their hands, called the dog and we all ran to escape. In the moment before we bounded through the door, I realized the girls didn't have jackets and so I grabbed a blanket that was tossed over the living room chair near the front door. It was an Afghan my grandmother had made.
It then registered that I was without a coat as well. I threw open the hall closet and grabbed the first thing I saw. Because of its enormity, the first coat I spotted was a faux fur. A gift from my mother for winter days when I worked in Manhattan, I wore it just once. In front of her. In New Jersey. On a day when no one else was around and it was hardly cold out. The coat was long and massive because it was reversible - fake leather on one side and fake fur on the other. It was so heavy I would sweat while wearing it; it was so thick, I couldn't bend my arms when I had it on.
I called 911 when we got outside. As we waited I wrapped the children together in the Afghan and I stood there and my faux mink trying to keep them calm. When the fire engines and cops pulled up to the house, I feared for a moment that someone might shoot me thinking I was grizzly bear standing near two small children.
My neighbor ran over to see what happened. On this chilly day, he didn't waste one minute to ask me why the children were in a light, crocheted blanket and I was wearing a fur coat. And then it dawned on me that I hadn't even thought that the children could be freezing. The poor kids were huddled together under a blanket that had more holes in the pattern, than the yarn that had made it. Damn. I thought too late that I should have wrapped them in the coat. Oh come on - couldn't I just get credit for saving everyone from a practical inferno?
Adam pulled up from commuting home. Seeing fire trucks and cop cars everywhere, he ran over to us in a panic. Usually finding me at fault for things, I could tell fury was erupting as he moved closer and realized we were actually safe. The fireman told him that it was nothing I did; a faulty oven coil was to blame.
After we were cleared to go back in the house, I took off the coat that could double as road kill. Adam just stood there looking at me. His face contorted in dislike while asking me where I got my coat. He laughed and quipped that I should have thrown my fur in the oven and let it burn.