When I was fourteen the Yellow House burned down.
Let me tell you more . . .
So there I was, minding my own business (as usual), on the phone with Andi, curled up in a chair in the sun room. It was the summer after eighth grade, and I was going with her family to Yellowstone the next morning. I had a load of laundry in going downstairs and was wearing a grey pair of sweats – the significance I will share when I get to the end of this story.
Mid conversation the phone went silent. Suspecting a younger sibling to be playing with the phones, I went to find the culprit and express my teenage rage.
As I walked through the living room and past the dining room I heard an overwhelmingly loud crackle. And the only reasoning I could conjure for this never before heard sound was rats:
Like the rats in the sewer scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Since I had never heard such a sound before, it was all my mind could come up with. I envisioned my dining room, covered floor to ceiling with swarming, squealing rats.
And I was too afraid to look in.
So I stood in the hall, listening to the noise, trying to decide if I had the guts to peek or not, when my mom came running in the house yelling for us all to get outside.
She and the babies (Beez and Thomas) had been watching TV in the family room when Carrie came in and told her there was smoke coming from outside. Mom went out to take a look and saw flames spilling from the roof!
Larry, Leslee, and my Dad were all out of town on various summer adventures, and Danny was at a friends house, so it was just mom and four of us kids, me being the oldest.
So we took the kids ran over to our neighbors, the Duke’s, in the back, lifting them over the fence. They weren’t home, but with the younger kids settled a safe distance away, I took off running to find someone to call the fire department. I pounded on three neighbors doors and no one answered. I finally ran back to our house, and mom had found someone home and had called 9-1-1.
I ran back to the Duke’s house to be with my siblings while mom waited for the fire department. I remember we all knelt down and said a prayer for everything to be okay.
And then the fire department came. Because the Yellow House was surrounded by giant trees, the firemen were more concerned about the fire spreading through the trees and took time to first spray them down, something that greatly upset my mother. Finally they turned their focus on the house.
It must have been like eight o’clock or so, because I remember my mom being grateful she hadn’t put the babies to bed yet, even though it was past their bedtime. But it was also still light outside. The local news came, interviewing me in the pasture behind our house (on the other side of the yard, across from the Duke’s).
It didn’t take long for people to start coming to see the fuss: the entire ward showed up and stood in the Duke’s yard, looking over the fence to the spectacle occurring just 50 yards away. But they didn’t come empty handed- each family brought bags of clothes for each of us – all seven kids. I remember being shocked at the generosity and quick reaction to a moment of need.
And so it was like a block party – with friends and neighbors consoling and encouraging and marveling well into the night until the fire department was satisfied that the danger of flare up had passed, and began to pack up their equipment.
That first night we stayed at Aunt Linda’s. Mom didn’t let me go with Andi the next day to Yellowstone, so instead we moved our bags of hand-me-down clothes, which was all we owned at that point, into the Extended Stay Marriott Hotel in downtown Salt Lake, where we spent the rest of the summer.
At the end of the summer, before school started, my parents rented a house in Willow Creek, just off the golf course. It was much smaller, Larry slept in the closet, but somehow we made do. And that is where we lived all of my ninth grade year as my parents rebuilt and fixed our house. It was finally ready to move home just as another summer came.
The significance of the sweat pants? Well, when I was a teenager I had a personal rule of appearance: I did not wear sweats (I know, you giggle, but it was true . . . back then) so the one day I conceded for the sake of all clean laundry, was the day I appeared on the news. It was awesome.
I’m going to try and write down memories I have – for my little lovelies who always ask “Tell me a story of when you were a kid . . .”
I’m going to call them “Tales for Tuesdays” – and will try to write one a week . . . unless of course something else happens. In which case I won’t.