Monday, October 29, 2007

Toasted Jammies

When you're a kid, the world can be a very literal place. Grown-ups tell you to do or not to do something and you take them at their word without thinking beyond it. For example, kids are always told that if their clothes catch on fire, they're supposed to roll on the ground to put it out. Excellent advice as long you assume the child is actually wearing the clothes when they catch fire.

It was a cold November night and my family had just returned from a high school football game. I was never all that into football, but Dad adored it and always supported the local teams even without kids old enough to be in high school.

On that particular evening, my parents invited the next door neighbors over after the game. While the adults laughed over hot drinks in the living room, I went to get ready for bed. My room was the coldest in the house so I had a small space heater to help warm it up. I turned it on high and did my favorite trick – I draped my pajamas on top of it to get them "toasty". I'm fairly certain I never shared this trick with anyone because even at that age, I knew it wasn't all that smart. Still, with careful monitoring, I was very good at picking the moment when they were just the right warmth, without being a danger.

I was sitting only a few inches away trying to get the chill out of my bones, waiting impatiently for my flannel PJs to get warm. Not all that exciting, to be sure. So while I waited, I decided to draw some pictures. I brought the hardback chair over from my desk and used it as a table, my back now to the heater.

You can probably guess where this is going. Lost in my drawing, I soon smelled smoke. Glancing behind me I saw that my pajamas, still draped on the heater, were in flames. Good thing I knew what to do. Call my parents? Of course not. When your clothes catch fire, roll on the rug. Since I wasn't actually wearing the clothes, I figured it wouldn't do much good for me to roll around. Instead, I grabbed the flaming pajamas and rolled them on the rug.

This didn't have quite the result I'd hoped. The pajamas continued to burn and now the rug was also on fire. Oops. I hadn't quite put together at that age that the weight of the body IN the clothes is what helps snuff the fire. Carpets themselves have no innate fire-dousing powers.

Carrying the remnants of the clothes, I ran to the bathroom, threw them in the sink and turned on the water. Happy that fire was finally out, I left them soaking. I returned to my room to put out the fire on the carpet with water in my cupped hands. I suppose that with the way things were going, I feared that had I brought a glass it, too, would have caught fire.

Now I had a new problem. I wasn't eager to tell my parents what I'd done for fear they'd take away my space heater. It really was cold in my bedroom during those Wisconsin winters. With black, burned patches on the carpet, I knew it wouldn't take much to figure out what happened. So I took a pair of nail scissors, crawled under my desk where the carpet was fluffiest, and clipped small pieces of fiber – never too much in one spot – until I had a big handful.

As I was gluing the clippings on the burnt patches I heard my Mom's voice saying, "It's stronger over here!" right outside my door. Uh oh. "There are... burnt pajamas in the bathroom sink!" The jig was up.

Mom opened the door and took in the scene. I was sitting on the floor, gluing bits of fiber onto bare, dark holes in the carpet. The heater's grill was black with soot and smoke hung thick overhead.

"What happened?"

"I was warming my pajamas on the heater, they caught fire, I rolled them on the carpet, the carpet caught fire, I put out the pajamas, put out the carpet and now I'm fixing it." Sounded perfectly reasonable to me.

"Are you hurt?"


"Okay. Get ready for bed. We'll talk about this later. Oh, and turn off the heater."

Having an incredibly understanding mother, she did not take my heater away, did compliment me for remembering the "roll on the rug" thing, told me next time to call for help and forbade me from ever toasting my jammies again.

I didn't.


Anonymous said...

Mwahaha. This reminds me of the time I scorched the entire back of my favourite teddy bear, warming it a bit too close to the fire.


Grace Tyler said...

Wondering why Jennie needed to warm up her teddy bear. Was it cold?

Fantastic story. What it reminds me of is when I was in kindergarten and thought I'd save time getting ready for school if I wore all my underwear at once and took a pair off each morning, rather than change them each day. I never considered that the dirty pair was the one INSIDE.

I couldn't fit any of my pants on that first day and had to wear a skirt.

My mother, who was also for the most part very understanding, noticed my inflated behind and straightened me out.

She let my brother have some of the strangest pets, including praying mantis roaming the house. And lizards, which had to be fed live prey (bugs). Definitely a cool mom.

Amelia Elias said...

Snort! Kid logic is hilarious!

Laura Hamby said...

Guanna! I also burnt my carpet when I was a small children. My mother had allowed me to have a candle in my room (I have no idea why she allowed this, but there you go)... and in lighting said candle (while seated on the carpeted floor), managed to also light the carpet on fire. Put it out easily enough. My parents came to see what was on fire while I was in the midst of cutting off the burnt ends of the 1970's beige shag. *Ahem.* Dad wanted to know why I had a candle and Mom said she'd told me I could (still mystified)... I'm purty sure, that unless they examined the carpet, they never knew I actually burnt it.

Tina said...

I never burnt anything as a kid. I must have a defective gene. I did plug an old bobby pin in a wall socket, though. I only did it once.


Madonna said...

I love this story! And I love your creative kid logic. You definitely had an understanding and caring Mom. Glad you survived childhood to write these great posts.

Dullcie Anne said...

I never set anything on fire, but I had a haircutting fetish. Cut all the hair off my Baby Dear baby doll, my Lucky Locket Liddle Kiddle, and my Barbie. None of them were improved by my hairdressing, since I did not then, nor do I have now, any haircutting talent whatsoever.

Joanna Sandsmark said...

I like the fact that so many of you dabbled in accidental arson as youths. And if not that, then some other mischief. Too funny.

Like Grace, I would like to know why jennie's teddy bear needed heating. I'm sure there was a perfectly good kid logic reason.

-- Joanna