Christmas—it’s all about the memories. It’s all about the family. It’s all about waking up first thing in the morning to a house full of life.
It’s all about those Christmas smells.
Christmas morning, 2005. It was still dark. My littlest brother was the first one to wake up, like youngest siblings the world over. My brothers, when they are home, share a room together, so young Tom was able to whisper over to Sam (my second youngest brother),
“Sam—I think there’s something burning,”
Sam was older and wiser and asleep. “Whuh. It’s like six o’clock, go back to sleep”
Tom saw the logic in this and returned to visions of sugarplums etc. Pretty soon, however, these visions melted away—things were heating up.
“Sam…we have to get up…”
“There’s a big black hole in my mattress and…smoke is coming out of it…”
Sam leapt from his loft bed and started beating the bed with a blanket as Tom clambered out—this let more oxygen into the mattress, which was stuffed with smoldering flames! Sam then grabbed a fire extinguisher, but it was DEAD! My oldest brother ran to my parents’ room, shouting!
In the room adjacent, I found myself awake. What noise was this? Yelling? Crying? Barking? Stamping? An acrid smell, too? I tried to pull the comforter over my head and keep sleeping, but my curiosity got the best of me. I opened my door in time to see my father and one of my uncles running down the stairs at top speed with the burning mattress, followed by two brothers. A plume of smoke gushed from the mattress, like some kind of a surreal locomotive.
I followed its progress through the house to the back door, where it was flung into the drizzly alley. Tom, face awash in tears and snot, stumbled to the open door to catch his breath and shiver. His twelve-year-old-nerves were shot and he could say nothing! We gave him some water.
A quick inspection revealed that the fire was caused by an old artificial Christmas candle from the window over Tom’s bed. The cord, it turned out, had been laid across Tom’s covers and toys and electronics and books and gotten tangled up—the flame-shaped bulb burned its way slowly but surely down inside the mattress to smolder away. After determining this, we woke up my Uncle Billy (who managed to miss everything!), more family arrived, and it was time for coffee and Christmas stockings.
There’s a Christmas lesson to be taken from this.