Aug 7, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 7

Day 7:  Grateful for Air Conditioning and Good Luck

[Oh, and for the 1.25 of you breathlessly waiting for my next card to post, never fear. Cards are in production. Just having some creative arguments with myself!]

No one in our neighborhood had an air conditioner -- until the Pirellis (not their real name) got a window unit. Mr Pirelli wore a suit to work every day and they got a new car every two years. No other man wore a suit unless it was a special occasion, and everyone else's cars were used. I didn't know what Mr. Pirelli did for a living, but my Mom said that he had a "company car" and therefore, I assumed he was rich. It wasn't until I was older that I realized that we were living in a section of our town with tiny tract houses built for veterans. No one had a lot of money, but I guess the Pirellis had more than most of us, or they didn't waste it on stupid stuff like milk and bread.

I was 9 and I used to walk by their house, and see the air conditioner sticking out the living room window and think about what it would be like to escape the heat whenever you wanted to do so. I'd see myself sprawled out on their living room floor wrapped in a blanket reading Nancy Drew while everyone else sat on their front porches complaining about the heat.

During one particularly wicked heat wave, I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. My bedroom was upstairs and it was sticky and hot. I went downstairs, but it was miserable there too, so I went outside. I grabbed a lawn chair that was leaning against the back of the house, opened it, and sat down. My thighs stuck to the plastic webbing on the chair, but the air was a bit cooler outside, and I could hear the brook behind our house moving along. It was dark and late and I felt like a grown up sitting out there all alone. There were worse ways to spend a hot summer evening.

I heard a sound to the left and turned my head. The Pirelli's house was two doors down and I could see their backyard. It was 11 o'clock, but someone had turned on the kitchen light and the glow from that light lit up part of their backyard. Soon, Mr. and Mrs. Pirelli were sitting in their back yard smoking cigarettes. At one point I could hear them talking.

I was baffled. Why would anyone sit in the heat when they could have been inside nice and cool? I didn't want them to see me sitting outside in my short pj's so I walked back in the house, took out a book, and read for awhile. But, I kept thinking about how lucky they were and how unfair life was. Shouldn't everyone have the same things? If the Pirellis had AC, shouldn't everyone? Who was passing out all this luck and when was I going to get some of it?

I fell asleep reading, and a few hours later, I heard the sirens. Everyone in the neighborhood ran outside. The Pirelli's backyard was on fire, and with the hot dry summer, the fire was spreading, heading for their house. But, the fire department put out the fire before it could damage much of the house -- the back of the house was scorched, and the side of the screened porch had to be replaced. Their yard, and part of our neighbors' yard was burnt. No one was hurt.

I wondered if the Pirelli's cigarettes had caused the fire, but I didn't say anything. It was too big a thing to say about adults. But I overheard the grown ups talking and the fire department said it was caused by a cigarette. I felt sorry for the Pirellis -- everyone was talking about how they could have burnt down the entire neighborhood.

I got to thinking -- were the Pirellis lucky because they had air conditioning and the fire was put out, or unlucky because their yard caught fire and everyone was talking about them?

Later that day, after dinner, I asked my Mom -- what did she think? Were the Pirellis lucky or unlucky? Were we lucky or unlucky?

She looked at me, handed me a towel to dry the dishes and said:

"When you were 3, I was on my way outside to hang some clothes. But you were too quiet, so I went back in to check. You were playing with matches and just as I walked into the living room, your pajamas wooshed up in flames. I fell on top of you and put out the fire."

Pointing to her arm, she continued, "See this little scar? It's from the flames. We were all VERY lucky that day. "

***

The past has a way of staying beyond its welcome. The matches I lit when I was 3 were the last matches I ever lit. To this day, I am unable to light a match. My hands just won't do it. And sometimes, when I hear our central AC click on, I think of the night the Pirellis yard burnt and the little scar on my Mom's arm.

Lucky indeed.



13 comments:

  1. seriously, how do you come up with this stuff? I look forward to reading your stories!!

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  2. We're lucky. Things could always be much much worse. Even though the world is in a shocking state we are still very very lucky.

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  3. " Luck" shines down on us in so many little and big ways and in my mind is hand in hand with gratitude. My luck at this moment is reading this Day 7 post of yours! I look forward to tomorrow. Thank you Joan

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    1. Trish, thanks for such a sweet comment.

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  4. Wow! I totally agree with your mom. We were all VERY lucky that day.

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  5. I count the day I started following you - and yes, I am perhaps all of the 1.25 waiting. I also had a neighbor who I thought was the luckiest... she drove a Cadillac convertible. But, years later, her husband died on his 101st birthday - his life insurance expired at 100.
    You have everything to do with the smile on my face this morning - thanks.
    =]

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  6. You have a gift, Joan. Just beautiful.

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  7. Aside from everything else I enjoy about your writing, I love the grammer/language links. Makes me smile.

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