We were standing at the desk at the post office. I hate taking the kids to the post office, but sometimes life with the fire schedule requires it. I was sending quite a few things and it was taking awhile for my transaction to go through. I felt a tug on my pants.
“Mommy, are there smoke detectors in here?”
I looked down into BigBrother’s big brown eyes. It was a serious question, not a joke. I looked around. I didn’t actually see one. I looked back down at him, his big brown eyes hadn’t moved from my face. Figuring that they were, I thought I would involve the lady behind the desk to help ease his fears.
“Excuse me, ma’am, my son wants to know if there are smoke detectors in here.”
Her answer wasn’t what I had hoped. She kind of looked around as though she had never thought of it before. “Well, I would assume so, but I honestly don’t know.”
I looked back at BigBrother. His eyes had left my face and were nervously looking around the ceiling of the old building. I prayed for our post office worker to finish quickly.
— __ — __ —
The boys were playing on the deck while I finished cooking dinner. The window was open on the screen door so I could make sure they were still there and not beating each other with sticks. They were actually playing as quietly as they can play, crashing some cars into random Spiderman figurines.
The timer sounded on the oven as I was putting away some dishes across the kitchen.
BigBrother ran to the door. “MOMMY! YOU HAVE TO GET TO THE OVEN! OR IT WILL CATCH ON FIRE!”
I assured him that it was fine, that I was right here, and that I had dinner under control. I mean, sure, I’ve caught wooden spoons on fire and have burned soup, but I’m pretty adept in the kitchen. He eyed me cautiously but went back to playing with his brother.
— __ — __ —
We were eating our lunch together. The boys were eating sandwiches and cheese sticks and orange slices while I waited for some leftovers to heat up in the microwave.
“How long did you turn the microwave on for?”
“Just two minutes.”
“If you left it on too long, it would catch on fire and we’d have to go out the downstairs door, not the back door because the fire would get us.”
I took the conversation as a re-teaching moment about getting low and feeling for heat and the various exits we have from our home. But he kept on.
“Well, what about our stuff, our toys.”
“People are more important than things. Mommy and Daddy would get you two out first. People are not replaceable.”
“People are the most important things.”
“But what about your pictures?”
“Well, I’d be sad but we could get new pictures. We would make sure you were safe though.”
He seemed satisfied, but my heart was heavy.
— __ — __ —
I don’t know where these questions are coming from as of late. I don’t quite know if they’re just age appropriate fire safety bits and pieces spilling out or if they are a off-shoot from growing up in a fire family. We say the word fire more than most families on a daily basis. We read books about firefighters. We talk about the fire station and how FireDad is working on his shift day. They ask to put on their firefighter costumes. They play with fire trucks. It’s all fire, all the time. And while I want my sons to have a healthy dose of fear when it comes to fire, his worry hits me hard. He is so much like me that it hurts sometimes.
LittleBrother is two years younger and doesn’t quite have the same understanding that fire can ruin things and hurt people. BigBrother’s world was kind of shaken when two of our favorite firefighters were injured last year. Firefighters can get hurt. That has evolved into the realization that fire can happen anywhere, whether you’re at home or at school or at the post office.
I do my best to reassure him that we will take care of him, but his fears linger.
But if you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, his answer nowadays is soundly, “A firefighter.” No more “and a space ranger” tacked onto the end. Firefighter. His answer is firm and quick. I realize that will change 87 times by the time he hits an age where the question actually matters. But if you ask FireDad if he always wanted to be a firefighter, the answer is yes.
I try not to think about it. I wish someone was sitting at the table reassuring me that my family would always be safe.