We have a phantom doorbell.
That is to say, it rings when nobody’s there. It’s probably an electrical problem. It rings if something bangs into the wall. It rings if there’s rain. It rings if you open and close the front door. It was acting up again last night when I went to bed.
Which is why I didn’t pay attention when I heard it ringing at 2:50 this morning. But then, I heard the knocking that followed. “That’s weird,” I thought. I walked out of my bedroom, still a bit bleary but alert from the adrenaline. I noticed there was a large emergency vehicle with lights flashing parked out front at my neighbor’s.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” I thought, and briefly considered waking Dave to deal with it, but decided to go ahead and open the door. A burly fireman waited outside, holding a clipboard.
“Sorry to wake you, ma’am; I know it’s the middle of the night. Are you aware you had a fire?”
Um… no, I was not aware. Wow. What happened?
“Well, a passerby noticed that your yard brush and leaves were burning and that the fire had gotten out of control and was getting pretty close to both your house and the house next door. We’ve been out here controlling it for a while, and we’re just about done, but were y’all burning leaves last night?”
It turns out Dave had thrown a match down and thought little of it, and then it started to catch. He stomped it out. Later when he went to close the garage door, he noticed it was smoldering, so he doused it with 15 gallons of water, thought it was done, and went to bed. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of it.
While we were peacefully sleeping in our beds, with our precious children, it came this close to our back deck stairs.
It came this close to our beloved van, Oholibus, whose gas tank was recently refilled.
It encroached upon the backyard, burning a few railroad ties and getting close to the shed where we house all our firewood that Dave spent all last summer chopping and aging.
How quickly our lives could have changed beyond recognition.
But instead, we are fine, and all our stuff is intact, and we all woke up and went to Mass as a family this morning.
And we are so thankful.
Perhaps our friendly neighborhood firemen will be seeing us later this week, but this time, I hope, we’ll be on their turf.