I don’t know what your kids are like, but mine call me from all over the house, all the time. “Mummy…”, “Mummy!”, “MUMMY!” So often I just ignore it, unless it sounds like pain.
This afternoon I had two children doing after school activities in two rooms. One’s doing a reading programme on the laptop in the study, one’s writing in a book in the kitchen – keeping me company while I prepare the dinner. As always I’m flitting between the two. Miss 3 needs help understanding the on-screen instructions or clicking on the right button – thinking back, I should have had her in the kitchen and the other one in the study. Ah – hindsight.
So I’m in the study with Miss 3 when Miss 5 calls “Mummy” and I ignore her. She calls again. The third time she adds three words that make me move damned fast.
“Mummy – the pan’s on fire.”
Instantly I remember the olive oil heating in the wok on the stove. The generous glug. The hated induction hob that heats up super-fast. My tendency to do too many things at once. As I turn toward the kitchen I can see the reflection of flames leaping on the wall.
Miss 5 is, thankfully, sitting calmly in her seat watching the flames.
The flames that are licking the underside of the wooden kitchen cupboards in the kitchen of our rented flat. The one that was inspected yesterday. The one I paid the lovely Uliana to clean for us today. The one with the ear-piercing fire alarm that goes off for warm toast, and rings on every single floor of the house, advertising to the entire building that someone, somewhere, has been careless in the kitchen.
I grab the pan and hold it at arms length. Sink? Back door? Sink? Back door? Sink? Back door?
Back door shut.
Sink too close to low overhead wooden cupboards.
How come that fire alarm hasn’t come on? I mean honestly, the one time you really mean it…
I glance at Miss 5, “Could you…?” No. No – I can’t ask her to open the back door, it means she has to pass by the burning pan in our narrow kitchen. Option declined.
I can’t open the back door either – lack of space means the manoeuvre puts the burning pan too close to ME.
Calm Miss 5, sensing my indecision and slight panic at the rising flames, starts to cry.
I throw the whole inferno into the thankfully-almost-empty sink and chuck the tap on.
There’s a lot of hissing, For a moment the flames shoot higher licking left and right along the overhead units and I think “Bugger, I’m about to set the house on fire.”
And the alarm is STILL not ringing.
And the flames look oh so much bigger.
Then in a split second, the fire dies down, and goes out.
Just like that.
THEN the fire alarm comes on.
Miss 5, a little shocked, is sitting clutching her writing book and trying to cover her delicate ears. I run to open the front and back doors then grab the writing book (actually, I believe I took the time to say “May I have your book?” – Being English is such a curse) and wave it frantically at the smoke detectors in the kitchen and hallway. After a minute or so, the cacophony stops.
I go to Miss 5 and hold her close. Her heart is beating twice as fast as normal.
“Thank you,” I say, “You were amazing. You saved us! You were so calm. You were brilliant. Thank you.”
I comment on her heartbeat. She’s incredibly matter-of-fact about the whole incident.
“Yes,” she says, “I was a bit scared.”
A few seconds later, as I release her from my relieved embrace, she quietly says,
“My legs are also shaking quite a lot. It was frightening.”
I give more hugs and praise. She is amazing.
Then, as I start to clean black soot from the tiles, she scolds me saying,
“Mummy, you should have a fire blanket to put over the pan and put the fire out.”
“You’re absolutely right,” I say, “I absolutely should.”
I am in awe.