Today you are supposed to open your readers to dizzying parts progress and smack-talk related to the ongoing saga that is my kitchen renovation. Unfortunately, I have none of that for you today.
The past 2 weeks, I have been on India on a business trip. It was awesome. I fully expected to come home brimming with energy and enthusiasm and ready to dive, head-first, back into my kitchen and whip up some progress to show you today.
Monday morning, I landed in JFK to cold and snow. A rude awakening from the warmth and mild breezes of Bangalore & Delhi. Determined to hit the ground running and get back on Eastern Standard Time, I got home, showered, and went into the office.
It was a normal weekday and I was going to treat it as such. By mid-afternoon, the jet-lag was catching up and I succumbed to leaving early in favor of a nap.
That evening, instead of staying home and being productive (as originally intended), I went out. A relatively uneventful evening passed into night. At 12:35am, I get a text from my tenant – “Do you smell smoke?”
15 minutes later, I get a frantic call from my neighbor. CARRIE! 14 IS ON FIRE!!
Not comprehending what she actually meant I asked, “What do you mean 14 is on fire?” “It’s ON FIRE!” came the reply.
Scrambling out the door, into the car, and flying across New Jersey towards a rowhome fire elicits a sinking level of dread which, until that moment, I had been lucky enough to never feel.
See – I live at 16. My immediate neighbor – the home connected to the left side of my house – was on fire. For me, fire is the scariest of disasters for rowhome living. I’ve dealt with noise because of connected living. I’ve dealt with rats. But fire… fire makes all that look like small potatoes.
Fire wiped out large swaths of city homes at the beginning of last century.
Fire, even more than water, is the one thing that can cause incredible amounts of damage in the blink of an eye.
As the trees whip by out the side window of the car, I am steeling myself for the worst.
This is it.
This is going to be bad and there’s nothing I could have done to prevent or stop it.
The boys (dogs) are still at my parents.
My tenant is awake and out of the house.
Well…everything else is just stuff.
With that resolution came a calm that I’m still riding.
Whatever I pulled up to find, it would be ok.
I pulled up to find this:
Big trucks and flashing lights clogging my entire street. Hoses shooting thousands of gallons of water onto the smoldering shell of my neighbor’s house. The water coating everything in a thick layer of black, sooty ice.
The neighborhood convened at the local bar. Checking in. Talking about what happened. Sharing a pint (or 2).
The fire started up on the third floor next door. The house was rented out to a bunch of guys (mostly college aged). Fortunately, all the humans made it out alive. The kid living up on the 3rd floor is lucky to be alive. Sadly, he lost one of his dogs to the smoke & fire.
Hearing that made me even more grateful both my boys are still tucked safely away at my parents.
Because I wasn’t home, the fire fighters smashed in my front door to check the house.
Seeing the door I just spent so much time, money & effort restoring hacked & smashed sucks. I’m fortunate that it wasn’t worse and hopeful it’ll be salvageable.
To make sure the fire didn’t spread across to my home, the fire fighters tore holes in the ceiling of the 3rd floor hall & bathroom.
It’s a mess. There’s plaster, grit, insulation, lath, and dust everywhere. The entire house smells like a campfire.
There is damage to my roof.
And the skylight is destroyed.
But looking next door, it’s easy to remember that it could have been so much worse.
I still have a home to clean up. I still have clothes to bag up and send to the dry cleaner. I still have ceilings that can be repaired and a roof that can be replaced.
The fire fighters and the double layer of brick walls that separate our homes saved me. If this was modern wood stud construction, I would have nothing right now.
I have always loved my brick walls because they’re beautiful. This week, I’m grateful to have them because they saved me from this –
The next few days will be spent managing the initial clean up and getting the insurance ball rolling. Maybe they’ll be some kitchen progress next week.
In the meantime, go check out Sarah and her awesome window casings! I’m going to go kiss my brick walls.