Somewhere between ten and eleven on Sunday night reality hit. It was bedtime and we still had "miles to go before [we] sleep and miles to go before [we] sleep." Three hours worth of miles.
I offered to switch and drive for awhile, but Amber pointed out that might be futile since I was yawning too. She said she'd just curl up and go to sleep rather than keep me awake, but I wouldn't fall asleep while she was driving. Probably true. A few days earlier we'd learned the hard way that her reaction time is good even when she's tired.
Hit was a sudden, God-send burst of energy, I began the most animated, elaborate retelling of one of my favorite Christmas Eve stories. Followed by three hours worth of other stories, laughter, and no yawns at all.
It was Christmas Eve afternoon and I was almost done getting ready for the traditional brouhaha when the smoke detector went off.
As a teenager, what to do in case of a fire had been drilled into my head. I went out the garage door and passed both cars in the garage. I found out later that my sisters were in the car ready to go, unaware that the smoke detector was going off. When I rounded the house and headed towards our "meeting place" I realized there is a flaw in our plan: snow makes the meeting place hard to get to. But it didn't matter because I saw both of my parents just chilling in the kitchen.
I opened the backdoor and walked back in. Apparently my mom had spilled something in the oven earlier in the day and wanted to clean it out before everyone came over. She used the self-cleaner oven feature for the first time and it set the smoke detector off. Other than a hazy house, everything was fine.
The security system on our house is supposed to call the police if our house is broken into and fire department if the smoke detector goes off. We were literally five minutes away from leaving for six hours. We didn't want to come home (with the entire extended family fifteen minutes behind us) to discover our door had been broken down because we didn't answer.
Dad called the non-emergency fire department number to tell them everything was fine.
Fireman: Since you called, we have to send a truck out.
Great. Although, we later learned if the security system had called they would have sent trucks from two different stations because we're right in the middle between the two. As it were, the other station got an ambulance call around the same time. I like to think that in inconveniencing ourselves we saved a life. Whatever, Katie.
Anyway. Fire truck came. Big flashing lights. Alarmed neighbors called. Firemen stood in the back hall and listen to our crazy story. They didn't even go into the kitchen! They left. Dad called the security system people to make sure the fire department isn't going to be called again. Ultimately, against their advice, he disconnected our security system.
We showed up to my aunt and uncle's church a half hour late. My cousin's choir, the reason we were going to church there, was returning to their seats. We did make the pastor's day because the sanctuary was full, so they put seats in the atrium for us. This is why we don't save seats on Christmas Eve anymore. You never know when some firemen are going to make you late to church.
After church we began our normal round-robin at my aunt and uncle's house. Food, drinks, presents, cookies, moving on. The entire party of 13 journeyed to my grandparents' house for a repeat. Food, drinks, presents, cookies, moving on.
Our house was the last in our parade. We are also the only house with a functioning fire place. My uncle from out of town wanted to roast chestnuts over our fire. It made the kitchen a little smokey, but we didn't think anything of it.
Until my aunt shouted, "FIRE IN THE OVEN!"
Some bread dish--the same dish that had spilled earlier--was literally flaming inside of our oven. That's bad. One uncle grabbed a hot pad, pulled out the pan, and held it over the sink. The other uncle blew out the flames. Dad took the scorched pan and threw it in a snowbank in the back yard where it stayed for the next three days.
Of course, the fire alarm went off again and the house is full of smoke. For the second time that day we opened all of the windows to let the frigid winter air into our home and the smoke out into the world. I'm pretty sure the temperature in my kitchen was below freezing that Christmas. I camped out in the basement, the warmest place in the house.
No more chestnuts roasting over an indoor fire. No more flaming bread dish. Just a great Christmas tale. And a year full of photos with the fire extinguisher in them.
About a week later my mom's oven still needed to be cleaned. So she set the self-cleaner again and opened the kitchen window. She was on the phone with my aunt when she heard sirens in our area. It's not really that uncommon because there are two deadly traffic corners within a mile of our house. Except this was a fire engine siren. Getting closer. And closer. And closer.
Mom: I've got to go. That firetruck is coming down our street.
It stopped two houses away where they had a small electrical fire.
I hope this Christmas there are no unexpected guests. Especially those that drive a big red vehicle and wear yellow suits. Happy December First!