Saturday, September 6, 2008
Because of my extreme youth at the time, I cannot precisely recall the circumstances by which Mother caught herself on fire. But let me illustrate as much of the picture as I can.
It is the late summer of 1970. I recall that her right wrist was in a cast as a result of a bowling league mishap. This in itself wasn't all that significant, she had so many mishaps in the mid sixties that she owned her own crutches, and was given the nickname Miss Hospital by her yours truly. But this never slowed her down. So to slip a Qiana (TM) nylon blouse over her cast and act as if nothing had happened was totally in character.
Dad was out of town, in Atlanta at a CPA convention. He was due home that evening. Mom had decided at that moment to attack a crusted skillet on the stove with some type of chemical cleaner and steel wool. Perhaps the cast (yes, she was using that hand) caused her to bear down with More pressure than usual. All I recall is seeing the pan burst into flames, turning the blue and white floral Qiana (TM) blouse's sleeve into a seventies interpretation of Miss Liberty's torch.
Now this is where it gets a bit blurry. She was right handed, so her most adept hand was not only encased in plaster, it was further complicated by being wrapped in a layer of flaming Qiana (TM). It took her only a few precious moments to shed the rest of the garment, but the burning sleeve was stuck on the cast. With her free hand, she somehow managed to get to the Imperial Dishmaster spray brush and extinguish herself before any serious burns occurred. My adult mind pictures the advertisement, "I dreamt I evaded Self-Immolation in my Maidenform Bra". My eight year old self was simply traumatized.
When Dad arrived home a couple of hours later, the kitchen was a model of sparkling perfection, as was Mother. She had eliminated all signs of disaster, changed clothes, fixed her hair, and tied a dark colored sling over her blackened cast. Dad came through the door and remarked, "I've come from where it's hot". "Oh, so have I" she replied. "So have I".
It wasn't until the next day that he found the charred skillet in the trash.