This is a true story. It is part of a series about my family.
I don’t know exactly what set Dad off on the subject of fire safety. He must have read an article in a magazine, or maybe he saw something in the paper about a family tragically killed by a fire—a cigarette in bed, faulty wiring, dry Christmas tree—who knows. But he determined that he must take decisive action to make our house safer.
He was especially concerned about the two upstairs bedrooms. He bought a substantial length of rope and tied knots in it at regular intervals. Each of the bedrooms had a heavy desk. In fact, I believe our family of five boasted one desk per person, in keeping with Mom and Dad’s priorities. So Dad cut the rope into two lengths and tied one end of each around the leg of an upstairs desk, such that in the event of encroaching flames, the other end of the rope could be tossed out the window and the occupant of each bedroom could safely descend, using the knots for footholds. In the meantime, the ropes were coiled in nautical fashion under the desks.
Not long after the ropes were installed, I had my 16th birthday. My grandmother, like many people, felt that 16 was a major milepost for a girl. So she gave me a very special birthday present: a sewing machine. It was the latest Singer model with all the features. You could do zigzags, buttonholes, all kinds of things.
There was only one problem: I hated sewing. In home ec class, I’d totally flubbed the sewing project. We had to make a pleated skirt. First of all, working on the dining room table, I accidentally sewed the fabric to the tablecloth. And even after I solved that problem, the pleats came out all wrong. Some ran to the right, some ran to the left, and some of them came out as box pleats.
I had no patience for sewing, unlike my mother, who was truly gifted at the art. She made costumes for the three of us children as well as regular clothes, and she even tailor-made a red felt jacket with brass buttons for my stuffed tiger.
At the age of 16, I was much more interested in boys than in sewing. In particular, I was interested in Dennis Jones.
(To be continued)