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The Fire Of Youth

The following post was inspired by the thirty-seventh suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Virginia Culler of I Absolutely Hate The Word "Blog".

Once, as a child, a grown-up asked me what I would save if my house were burning down. I answered without hesitation: "My bike."

The adult seemed a little flustered by the speed of my response. "Your bike?" she asked, incredulous. "You could always buy a bike, you know. Isn't there something personal you'd want to save?"

She, like most adults, didn't understand. It wasn't important to have "a bike" after the fire; it was important to have my bike. Back then, certain possessions were practically an extension of my identity.

For a while there, around the time I was seven, my prized possession was a stick. It was a length of birch, maybe a yard in length and an inch in diameter, that I'd stripped of bark, and employed as a lightsaber in my backyard reenactment of pivotal Star Wars scenes. Plastic lightsabers were selling for a dime a dozen at the time, but I was happy with my stick -- after all, we'd shared so many adventures together.

One day we both broke -- it in half, I into tears -- and I knew it could never be replaced. Sticks like that don't grow on trees, you know.

So what would I save now, if my house were burning down and my family were already safe? Man, I don't know. Nothing leaps to mind.

In a way I'm proud of this -- attachment to stuff is such a drag, you know? But, still, I can't help but romanticize the days when my Dapper Dan or my Mickey Mouse wristwatch meant the world to me.

Maybe, if my house were burned down tomorrow, I'd use it as an opportunity to reclaim some of that lost innocence. I'd break into my garage, save my bike, and then ride up and down the block to share the news with my neighbors. "Come look," I'll cry excitedly, "A house is burning down! Oh boy: I bet the fire engines will be here any minute!"

Posted on January 22, 2007 to Plugapalooza, Storytelling


I used to have a stick. It was a length of bamboo with tape bound about it at it's ends. Some mean kid ran over it with his bike. I used my stick to create personal Vaudeville acts. :).

Posted by: Elizabeth on January 23, 2007 1:00 PM

I still have a stick. a couple in fact. i carved them myself. I'd still save them if the house burned down. you're not the only one to have done star wars reenactments; I did them less than half a decade ago.

Posted by: Hans on January 23, 2007 3:40 PM

Hey, nice zeugma!

Posted by: Doug Orleans on January 23, 2007 4:36 PM

I had a tree. Kind of like a stick, but with roots and leaves. Then someone bought the plot of land it was growing on and knocked it down with a bulldozer.

Posted by: elizabeth on January 23, 2007 4:37 PM

I'm sad to say I am officially an old person. Mostly because I'd run into my burning house to get my filing cabinet. As I can only imagine the bureaucratic hell I'd be in if I didn't have all that insurance paperwork and the millions of other bits of info I'd need to get my life back in order. Oh childlike whimsy, where are you? Adulthood has beaten it like red headed step child into an unrecoverable submission.

Posted by: HDC on January 23, 2007 4:45 PM

My house did burn down. To the ground. All I saved was my kid. I am here to tell you, with great shame, that I did not even think of going back into the burning building to find my cat. Cat did not even occur to me, nor did important papers or a stick. All I thought was: Jackson. Out. Now.

Next time I bet I'd do better. I could get the cat and the videotapes of Jackson as an adorable baby. Practice makes perfect.

Posted by: Lisa on January 23, 2007 5:05 PM

Ricky Gervias, of The Office fame:

"Someone asked me what three things I would save if my house was on fire. I said my cat, my salamander and one of the twins."

Posted by: danisaacs on January 23, 2007 6:43 PM

Seriously, what kind of cat do you have? Most cats would know to get out of the way of a fire. And most cats, if they really want to, can break a hole in a fly screen or something.

Unless your house is really locked down, I would have thought that a cat would get out. He'd probably run away out of fright, though, so you mightn't know.

Posted by: edgr on January 23, 2007 8:14 PM

I'd go back for the things that the kids care about that much: The security blanket, the (not so) plush monkey, at least one of the cats (the black cat that has adopted my youngest son as her kitten).

Edgr: cats are frightened by fire and will usually hide (until too late) under something in the house. This makes them hard to find, let alone rescue, and tends to get them cut off from avenues of flight. Many fire departments have available pet rescue stickers so you can alert them as to how many pets are in the house.

Lisa, I'm glad you and your son are safe. That WAS the most important thing to grab! =)

Posted by: Kevin on January 24, 2007 5:33 AM

years ago, the fire alarm went off in the building I was living in. I had a strongbox with my passport and other necessary documents in it, and reflexively grabbed it (I was overseas, so I had no childhood mementos around). One of my roommates grabbed her laptop, which was easily the most expensive thing in that apartment. We were half out the door when i went back to find the other roommate, who could sleep through a fire alarm. As i pulled her out of bed and towards the door, she veered away, grabbed a bottle of booze, and then ran out the door. She thought it was a false alarm, and figured she'd be better off with some gin in her.

That's why Yen is my hero

Posted by: bill on January 24, 2007 3:42 PM

Honest to God, when my house burned down, and the firemen gave the all clear to go in to try to get some papers or valuables, I came out with a Mr. T. Head Bank. There really wasn't much left anyway, and I thought it would make people laugh.

I still have it and I'd say it's one of my favorite possessions. It guards my living room even now. :)

Posted by: Jon on January 24, 2007 5:01 PM

Ok, Dapper Dan? What's that all about sissy boy?

Seriously, funny stuff indeed.

Posted by: Dave C. on January 26, 2007 7:23 PM