Growing up in the bush in Africa I saw a lot of fires. Bush fires that you work frantically to beat out, house fires with the roofs ablaze and people screaming at the top of their lungs. Fires from lightning, from a cooking fire, from a stray spark. My brother, when he was little, he was terrified of fire. If we watched a movie with a fire scene we had to turn the TV off and fast-forward so he wouldn’t see it. But I wasn’t scared of fire. Dad (and Smokey the Bear) taught us to respect it and to be careful with it, but not to be afraid of it.
When I was 19 I was working in Niger as a dorm parent and one afternoon when I was making an after school snack for the kids I was heating up oil. I turned to the other counter with my back to the oil for just a few seconds and by the time I turned back around, the oil was on fire. There was no fire blanket, and the fire extinguisher was wired closed (REALLY? Who does that?) By the time the fire got put out the above-stove microwave was melted and there was soot EVERYWHERE. I had a huge mess to clean up, and I learned a lesson about checking the fire extinguishers, but I still wasn’t really scared of fire.
In fact, I enjoy fire. I love sitting around a bonfire or a fireplace and watching the flames dance and tell stories. Some of my favorite memories revolve around a bonfire. I guess I didn’t realize that subconsciously one of those past experiences must’ve made an impact. A couple years ago I was watching a movie and fell asleep. Some time later I was woken by the sound of a fire alarm. I pulled on my shoes, grabbed my jacket, and was headed for the door when I realized my friends weren’t moving. I urged them to get out of the house and they looked puzzled until one of them told me it was just the movie. A few weeks ago Nathan was watching TV and I fell asleep and woke up to a flickering red light on the wall. Heart pounding and adrenalin racing I bolted upright just to realize that it was the colors from the TV. Then last night a sound woke me up around 4 or 5 and I saw the light of a flickering flame one the wall. Again, I got a rush of adrenaline and my heart started pounding—the fight or flight response—until I rolled over and saw that Nathan had come home from work, and he had his lit Zippo sitting on the nightstand as a light while he plugged his phone in. “Nathan!” I gasped, and rolled back over.
I don’t know if this keeps happening because a lot of the house fires that stand out the most clearly in my mind happened after dark, or if this is just my brain’s way of standing guard. Either way, I could sure do without the adrenaline rush in the middle of the night. I takes a while to get back to sleep!