Where There’s Smoke, There’s Lorna
Let’s see what other mischief Lorna managed to get into while remaining virtually unsupervised…
Among my many chores were getting the mail from our roadside mailbox, sorting it (Mémé and Pépé’s versus Mom’s), and delivering it the proper domicile. At the beginning of each month, my “mail-girl” duties took on particular significance because Social Security checks came. They were the butter that kept our Wonder Bread delicious. These envelopes had the same official glow that The Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes letters had–the ones that announced we may have already won more money than Elvis. These were special-delivery items and I had to handle them with care.
Another chore that my sisters and I shared was bringing our full waste-paper bin out to the burning barrel. Only Tina and I were allowed to actually burn the papers once the barrel was full of papers. This was a time before the ozone layer, so it was okay.
One day, these two chores collided in a most unfortunate way. I saw what looked to me like a pile of empty envelopes and junky papers Mom didn’t need and thought I’d be helpful and get rid of them for her. This filled up our waste-paper bin, so I dutifully went outside and dumped it in the burning barrel. Seeing that there were lots of papers already in there, self-motivated Me found some matches in the tool shed. I loved leaning over and starting the first paper on fire then watching the fire spread, smoke billowing from the barrel so much I had to back away until I saw flames and sooty wisps of paper shooting up.
When Mom came home that night, I noticed her shuffling through piles of papers in the dining room/piles of paper area. The look of concern on her face was pretty hard to ignore. She asked Tina, “Did you move any papers, especially the monthly check.” “No.” Tina was a sister of few words. Then she asked me. “Um. All I did was throw away some old empty envelopes and stuff.” I started rifling through the waste-paper bin, in a valiant and deceitful attempt to find the check. “It’s not in here,” I squeaked. “Lorna?” Mom was a mother of few words. “Um. I, um, burned the papers. I was trying to be helpful.” Notice how many words I am a girl of…”You did what?” Mom was now squeaking. “I’ll go see if the check is still in the burning barrel.” I knew it wasn’t, but I ran out and looked in the barrel. Cool dark ashes. When I undertake a task, I do it thoroughly. We never recovered the check.
We had seen Mom do it many times; there was never a problem when she did it. By our reasoning, we could replicate both the process and the outcome. Mom hated a mess around her gas stove–either in the oven or on the cook-top. She was
obsessive-compulsive…adamant about keeping everything she owned brand-new-looking (even while it was being used). That’s why she layered newspapers all over and around the gas cook-top when she was frying or cooking anything that might splatter. After she was finished cooking, she would carefully pick up the food/grease-stained newspaper and have very little wiping up to do on the cook-top. It was pure genius. Except for two things: we lived in a trailer and her children saw her do it.
Tina decided to cook something that might create some splatter. We were as adverse to cleaning the whole cook-top as anyone, so we decided to go the newspaper route. Tina and I layered about three whole newspapers so that the only visible part of that whole area in the small kitchen was one gas burner. It was a work of art. Before too long into the cooking process, we smelled more than the food cooking; we smelled paper cooking. Before you could say “Three young girls die in trailer inferno,” we had a regulation campfire situation spreading all over the stove.
I gasped then struck a pose, in wide-eyed suspended animation. Tina used the big black buzzer phone to emergency-buzz Mémé and say something effective like, “FIRE!” Mémé burst though the trailer door with incredible force and with a speed that would qualify her for the Olympic 100 yard dash. She was brandishing a canister of Morton’s salt. Mémé started flinging salt on the fire. Streams of white granules were arcing through the air and, amazingly, dousing the fire. They were also making a fine mess of our kitchen. When everything was over, I unstuck myself from my immobile “freeze-when-there-is danger” maladaptive response and helped Tina and Mémé (for whom I had new-found respect on so many levels) clean up the kitchen before Mom got home. We were able to scrub the grime left by the smoke, vacuüm the salt, and air out the kitchen. I wondered if Finnish fire-fighters use salt instead of water–maybe because of the cold winters?
One day I had to prepare dinner: frozen pot pies. I just had to heat them up in the oven on a tray so that, if they bubbled over, the oven wouldn’t get messy. I found a nice round tray perfect for the job. Carefully placing the four pot pies on it, I put the tray in the pre-heated 400-degree oven and set the kitchen timer for the proper time. The pot pies came out perfectly. The tray didn’t. It was a collector Beatles tray with close-ups of John, Paul, George, and Ringo painted on the surface. I purposefully put one potpie over each face. When I pulled out the tray from the oven, the “Fab Four” looked as if they’d been victims of chemical warfare—crinkled blackened bubbled remains of their former superstar selves. The toxic stench of lead paint fumes overwhelmed the enticing aroma of turkey pot pies. After that, I didn’t cook much.
It’s time to hear about the special times between Lorna and her very first love…
~ by Lorna's Voice on February 7, 2012.