A Christmas Fire

The earliest solid memories of a home I have come from an apartment we lived in before moving in next to the Christian school. I can remember being obsessed with the songs Juke Box Hero, Hotel California and everything KISS and playing my little plastic guitar in my superhero underoos, telling everyone I was gonna be a rock star when I grew up.

I remember having an Easy-Bake oven and being disappointed by it.

I remember an old man whom I often visited who made me sandwiches with American cheese, lettuce and mustard. I love them to this day. Occasionally he also had candy orange slices. Looking back I am unsure if I was a welcome guest or hungry intruder, but either way he was always kind and generous if not a bit grumpy.

My mother was pregnant with my youngest brother Jamie at this time. I can also remember putting matchbox cars on her belly and waiting for the baby to kick and send them rolling off. That summer after he was born, when my parents pulled up in the driveway after leaving the hospital, Jason ran out of the house yelling, “The baby came out!” over and over again. I was a bit more skeptical, not having taken to the idea of sharing attention with the one brother already. Being the first child of my generation spoiled me, and made me less eager to be a sibling than most kids. My hope was the two would distract one another as I worked on my burgeoning rock career.

Mom would sing and dance around with Jamie in her arms with Jason excitedly joining in to the song Rockin’ Robin what seemed like hundreds of times. I hated that song. A song about birds rocking out? I was not even five and I knew that shit was weak.

Then one night just a week or so before Christmas there was a fire. It happened in the middle of the night. Luckily my mom and another resident were up doing laundry and visiting. That laundry room was next to the apartment where the fire started, so they were alerted early enough to awaken the other people in the building and call 911. I can remember being woken in the night and fleeing our upper level apartment. My mother carried Jamie while my dad carried Jason in one arm a dragged me along with the other – plonk plonk plonk – down the stairs. We stood watching the flames in the parking lot until the fire trucks eventually came and put them out; and finally heading to my grandparents wondering just what the collateral damage was on all the presents under the tree.

One teenage boy lost his life, but it could have been worse if not for late night laundry.
Strangely the first place I ever moved into after leaving my parents home to begin adulting was in the same building in the apartment right next door. That is where I later became gangsta.

One of the twisted truths of existence is that without some horror in our lives we would have no stories to tell. Ask yourself which world frightens you more – a world without some horror or a world without stories to tell?

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