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We're Home!

June 8, 2015


It’s good to be home, and our overseas vacations usually begin to wrap up with a soul stirring “Welcome Home” by customs officials, at which point I begin to regale you with our adventures in a chronological manner, but this time is different. After our five hour wait for our twelve hour departing flight from the Zurich airport, and waiting three hours at San Francisco to catch a two hour flight to Portland, we couldn’t wait to crawl into bed and succumb to jetlag, but our adventure wasn’t over, not by a long shot.


At 2:30 a.m. Mrs. C. got up to make a bathroom pit stop. My hearing was compromised by a terrible cold that, combined with multiple landings and takeoffs, made my hearing fade in and out. But I heard her mumble, “What’s blinking downstairs?” Since I’m usually the culprit who leaves lights on when we ascend the stairs for bed, I climbed down to see what I’d left on. The answer: nothing. Mrs. C. had followed me downstairs. She opened the front door and said, “There’s a fire truck out here.”


My first thought was someone in the neighborhood had a heart attack. I stepped outside and, bleary eyed though I was, saw she was partially right—not one fire truck but seven.


When I was small, the house across the street burned to the ground. As a kid, I was traumatized by the sight of a house, and all its possessions reduced to ashes. That childhood incident has seldom left my mind, and always elbows its way to the front of my thoughts when our cab turns the corner onto our street after an extended stay away from home. For a moment, I envision the burned remains of our house, but the vision always evaporates with the familiar sight of our residence safe and sound.


So it was when we returned from Zurich. Exhausted, I barely had enough energy to carry our suitcases upstairs to the laundry room. I finally stumbled into bed, a cough lozenge lodged in my cheek and an expectation of hours of blissful sleep ahead of me.


Something is blinking downstairs!


Seven fire trucks don’t show up for a heart attack. Our street was crisscrossed with hoses looking like bloated boa constrictors. And smoke, lots of it, enough to burn your eyes.


Neighbors wrapped in blankets turned and looked at me as I modeled my underwear in our entryway. I dashed upstairs and pulled on some clothes before heading out to see what was going on. How could all of these fire trucks have arrived without my hearing anything? Then I remembered my ears were plugged and I still couldn’t hear much of anything. Fatigue must have prevented Mrs. C from hearing the sirens.


I walked toward the smoke billowing from a unit across the street. A neighbor I’d seen but never spoken to held a shivering dog in her arms. She pointed at the burning townhouse and said, “I live next door to the unit on fire; I heard the windows bursting and dialed #911.”


“Was anyone hurt?” I asked struggling to hear with my muffled ears.


“No one’s home. The owner is on a business trip in Seattle. The other units in the building, including mine, have been evacuated because of the smoke, but the fire has been contained. We’re told we can return in a few hours.”


I told Mrs. C. what I’d learned, but she was now dressed and out the door. She works for the city and knows a dozen firemen. She returned twenty minutes later with news that the fire had started with flammable materials in the garage. I needed to check the flammable paint materials in my garage—first thing in the morning.


“Did you recognize any of the firemen?” I asked.


She nodded. “First string, too.”


That’s what she says when spotting attractive firemen in our grocery store.


“Does my hair look good?” she asked.


I tapped my ears and pretended my hearing had again faded out. What is it with women and firemen?


Still, it felt good to be home, but I don’t think I can handle any more adventure for a while.




We made the news!








So glad no one was hurt.



Next time: We arrive in Munich



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Welcome home! Although what a welcome. Glad no one was hurt, but the owner of that unit is going to come home to a nasty surprise.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on June 8, 2015
Wow- that was an unwelcome welcome home, wasn't it? My gollies..I'm glad no one was hurt. Can't wait to hear all about your trip. Hope you feel better soon.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on June 8, 2015
Welcome back. I always worry I'll come back from vacation to find my place burned down or looted. It makes a good surprise when it's not.
By: PT Dilloway on June 8, 2015
I'm trying to imagine you 'dashing upstairs' after being ogled by your neighbours. -- Welcome back globetrotters.
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 8, 2015
Yikes! Not something you want to see your first night back. Looking forward to hearing about your trip.
By: Scott Park on June 8, 2015
considering how terrible it could have been, and glad it wasn't your place, it could have been much worse!
By: TexWisGirl on June 8, 2015
I am so glad it was not your house, but feel so sad for the tragedy of the family that lost everything! We got back and it was far less eventful!! Get some rest and then tell us about your trip.
By: Tabor on June 8, 2015
I'm relieved that nobody was hurt. And that it was "just' a fire. At first I was afraid the police were at your door because of something you did going through customs!
By: Val on June 8, 2015
Oh I'm glad it wasn't your town home. Your neighborhood is so beautiful, but yours has all of that irreplaceable art in it. Oh my gosh, yes that would have been horrible.
By: Michael Offutt on June 8, 2015
Glad you're OK--fire scares the hell out of me!!
By: fishducky on June 8, 2015
That's making the news for all of the wrong reasons, and i am so sorry that person lost his/her home.
By: mimi on June 8, 2015
Oh, wow. That place looks trashed. Glad it wasn't your place and that everyone got out o.k. Once again, welcome home.
By: Catalyst on June 8, 2015
oh my gosh- how scary for the neighborhood- good thing it was contained so quickly so no one got hurt and the fire did not go any further. Looking forward to your stories and Welcome Home!
By: Kathe W. on June 8, 2015
That really is a great finale to a trip. It's all you need when you come home and you're exhausted.
By: red on June 8, 2015
scary, even if no one was hurt. I'd hate to be returning home to this. So not a good way to make the news. Glad you are both safe though, and I hope your hearing comes back soon.
By: dolorah on June 8, 2015
OMG - that looks awful. And now your worst nightmare is coming true for that poor neighbor who's in Seattle. Well, thank heaven it wasn't your house. And I bet Mrs. C was just jealous of all the neighbors ogling you - the entryway underwear model. ;)
By: Lexa Cain on June 9, 2015
Goodness what terrible welcome back home. Just thank goodness it wasn't any closer to your house. Looking forward to your adventures.
By: Oma Linda on June 9, 2015
When I was in high school the big two story house at the end of our short private road went up in flames. the owners were not home but the little dog was trapped inside. four alarm fire. I'll never forget the sight of that house totally engulfed in flames towering high into the sky.
By: Ellen Abbott on June 9, 2015
I used to wake up if a bug hit the window, but I can sleep through almost anything these days. Glad no one was hurt and I look forward to hearing more about the trip!
By: Katy Anders on June 9, 2015
I'm glad you're home but that is too much excitement of the wrong king! Waiting to see those trip pictures, Stephen! I hope it was fabulous.
By: Cherdo on June 9, 2015
Welcome home! I have that same fear every time we come home from out of town. And that's with knowing that our neighbor would call us if something happened! so glad no one was hurt.
By: The Bug on June 9, 2015
I am glad you-all made it back safe and relatively sound. I would be shocked to find that the fire across the street was not arson.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on June 9, 2015
Welcome home, weary traveler! Although I feel badly for your neighbors.
By: Al Penwasser on June 9, 2015
Good to have you back, but what an adventure................ Glad all were okay and I hope you and Mrs C have recovered from your travels!
By: John on June 9, 2015
Welcome home, and glad the nasty surprise was not YOUR nasty surprise. Uhg. I have the same thoughts when I come home after being gone, always look to see if our house is still there once I turn the corner into our street.
By: Pixel Peeper on June 9, 2015
Welcome back. Glad no-one was hurt, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who suffers that kind of anxiety when returning home after a trip. I always breathe a sigh of relief to find my house still standing. Irrational, but there it is.
By: Botanist on June 9, 2015
What a frightening moment, alerting old memories too. Sorry to see the damage but glad there was no injury and that you are back at the keyboard and home.
By: Tom Cochrun on June 9, 2015
Wow. I'm also so glad no one was hurt. How awful! But, really?... "What is it with women and firemen?" The question really is "What is it with firemen?!?"
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 10, 2015
You sure didn't inspire me to take a trip, what with colds, jetlag, delays, disasters awaiting one at home (well, almost). I know how you do it. Peggy would probably go with you, but I'll stay right here, thank you very much. Glad you're at least alive.
By: Snowbrush on June 10, 2015
Now that's some kind of homecoming! Thank god no one was hurt. The homeowner is in for a surprise when they arrive home. P.S. Welcome back!!!
By: Bouncin Barb on June 10, 2015
Oh boy what a welcome home! Poor person who is going to arrive home to that. Now I need to go and check my garage.
By: LL Cool Joe on June 11, 2015
What a lengthy trip back only to endure the fire! I'm glad no one was hurt.
By: Michael Manning on June 19, 2015

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