Where There’s Smoke, There’s Lorna

Hmm. I wonder how that happened?

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.

It was perfectly safe. Well, not perfectly... Well, not safe...

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.

In my dreams. Maybe next month we can afford jam.


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.

Next time, Tina, let's not try a flambé, okay?

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?

The Finns may be on to something with salt. It's got to be easier to spray in sub-zero temps than water.


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.

Yup. That's what the Fab Four looked like before the Pot Pie Incident. In mint condition, it's worth about $250. In charred condition, it's worth a good story.

It’s time to hear about the special times between Lorna and her very first love…

~ by Lorna's Voice on February 7, 2012.

30 Responses to “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Lorna”

  1. It would be funny…

  2. I like the T-shirt idea! 😉

  3. I hope you never have to use it. 😉

  4. I’ll have to remember the salt hint. Very interesting…

  5. I suppose that’s true. What’s a good coming of age story without a bit of pyrotechnics in a trailer?

  6. My Mom would never have wasted so much aluminum foil. She and Meme were the original conservationists. I supposes all people who went through a war or the Depression were…

  7. To this day, I avoid cooking shows and I’m not known for experimenting in the kitchen…I like my condo and don’t want to damage it!

  8. I remember the salt flying through the air. Funny visual, you’re right!

  9. OMG! I had a visual of Meme coming to our rescue, so funny but she saved us. Thank you for the smile! 🙂

  10. Molten, toxic lead paint fumes mixed with the odor of Turkey pot pies…I wonder whose lovely tray got destroyed… I used to love those little pies when I was a kid. 🙂

  11. Glad you’re not a pyromaniac just a problem solver.
    It makes perfect sense to me to try to keep your cooking
    area clean so as to avoid lots of work. It was just the wrong
    item to use. Perhaps, aluminum foil may have worked a little
    better – NAh … I like the story just the way it went down. I’m
    glad you were all okay – really.
    Hugs and Toodles,
    Izzy xoxo

  12. A highly intelligent, madly curious, precocious child left to her own devices – w-e-l-l, fire and mayhem are bound to be the order of the day, Lorna
    cheers catchul8r molly

  13. Diana, I think I must be on my last life (in this lifetime), so I’m taking it real easy these days…

  14. And I was never once arrested fro arson. I lived a charmed life… 🙂

  15. It’s the price I pay for spilling my own beans, I suppose. Look for my funny search term posts ahead!

  16. Yeah, kids are pretty good actors, or at least real hopeful that what they know to be true will magically not be true. 😉

  17. Yeah, and on the back it should read, “And all I got was this lousy burned tee shirt…” 🙂

  18. I have lots of “middle names” but danger isn’t one that normally comes to mind. Maybe it should!

  19. Lorna, you had me in stitches! You’re a dangerous woman, lol! 🙂

  20. Time for a T-shirt: “I survived living with Lorna” for your mom and the sisters.

  21. Tickled me how you went looking for the check in the burning bin, knowing it was crisp already…Kids tend to act these cover-ups well while guilt rides their little hinies. I know that feeling…(now giving you a consoling pat on the back).

  22. This you just could not make up. I’m with Phil your search engine terms are bound get even more interesting by the post. 😉

  23. OMG, girl,you really need to stay away from open or closed flames. You obviously can not be trusted. Smoking hot Lorna, I liked that. T

  24. Fires, lightning–you’ve led a death defying life. I’m pretty sure you’ve got at least 9 lives–maybe more–but just to be safe, I wouldn’t push my luck.

  25. Ha! The memories! Only paper could go into our burning barrel, but I remember enough close calls with wisps of flaming paper towels and such barely missing our faces as they blew up and into the air. Good times!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  26. We had a burning barrel when I was a kid and I was in charge of it and burning the trash was my favorite chore.

    I liked to hold twisted Wonder bread type bag, light it with a match, and let the dripping molten plastic spread drips all around the papers in the barrel. Each drip would make a wspss sound as it fell through the atmosphere and landed burning on fire onto the paper.

    I once got a bit of that hot plastic on my hand. I couldn’t shake it off and it burned like the dickens. Be careful.

  27. I appreciate your continued interest in my wonky life, Androgoth. Have you met anyone else like me? 🙂

  28. Irony is my middle name! I’m sure Mom found out right away. Some things you just can’t hide–like almost burning your home down. We were hardly any trouble otherwise… 😉

  29. I will venture to guess another search term soon to appear in your site stats that will bring the lurkers to your blog: smoking hot Lorna. 😉

    Memo to self – if ever in need ti have evidence destroyed at a crime scene, Lorna is your gal. Mémé was definitely a quick thinker on her feet! And it adds new meaning to the term “Hot Phone.” I can’t imagine, even after airing out the house, the smell of a smoke from a fire could be eradicated so quickly. Did your mom find out right away? I love the irony that all these messes were created in an effort to be neat and clean…

  30. I am just calling by to keep up to speed on your wickedness Lorna 🙂 Well someone has to keep you in check and as I am a wicked peep I guess I have the job of grabbing your… attention and trying to keep up with your many postings, okay so I am not doing such a good job of that but I am trying…

    How do you mean YOU know I am? 🙂 lol Yes very trying me you know… I think that I would like one of those turkey pot pies but without the charcoal or toxic enhancements… I will pass on the Beatles too but maybe something ‘Heavy Metal’ would be interesting? 🙂

    Have a great day today Lorna and
    remember, I am keeping a Gothic
    eye on you, so watch it 🙂 😉

    Androgoth XXx

Silence can be just what the doctor ordered. You know I'm a doctor, right?

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