Since we'll be gone soon, we decided we needed to make a trip to Alabama to see Derrick's family one last time. Last Wednesday we packed ourselves into a plane and flew off to Alabama. Getting there was pretty uneventful--the kids had fun flying and were reasonably well-behaved. We flew into Atlanta and rented a car and then drove to Derrick's uncle's house.
We spent Thanksgiving day at Robert and Jennifer's new house. They have a beautiful, spacious home that was perfect for the group--lots of space for the kids to run around in, lots of places for us adults to gather and gossip. I took tons of pictures, as much so I'll have pictures of everyone in the family (I hope) to show my kids as anything else.
Friday Derrick's mom arranged for Sylvia to have a horseback riding lesson from Jennifer. Sylvia wasn't keen on the idea at first, but eventually warmed up to it and enjoyed the experience. Paul, on the other hand, didn't. Oh well. He was much happier after a nap and quite enjoyed opening Christmas presents that evening. I think he was more excited by our surprise visit from Santa than Sylvia was.
Sunday morning Philip and his family were leaving, so they packed up and started getting ready to go while the rest of us visited. All morning long there was a funny smell in the house that I'd assumed was burning dust bunnies since the heater was on. At some point the lights started flickering and I heard a popping sound from the closet in the room where Derrick and I were staying. I opened the closet to check it out and saw flames coming from the breaker box. I shut the door (probably the smartest thing I did for the rest of the morning) and rushed off, yelling semi-coherently about a fire in the closet and getting an extinguisher.
Someone called the fire department, Brenda pulled Kelly and all the kids into their SUV and drove it away from the house, the rest of us started pulling pictures off walls and moving them out of the house until the fire department arrived. I shut the door to the bedroom as well, figuring that would slow the fire and contain the smoke that was seeping out of the closet, not bothering to grab any of our stuff (including our camera, as it turned out). Jud and Linda were already on their way before we called 911, so they arrived and started pulling out other heirlooms--quilts and books of family photos--we didn't know about. The fire wasn't too bad (really only took out half a closet and part of the attic in the end) so the fire fighters didn't stop anyone from carrying out belongings. Derrick and I quit pulling things out pretty much when the first fire truck arrived (of the three that eventually came, along at least as many other emergency vehicles), and stayed out of the way. Everyone else kept grabbing stuff, including clothes and other incidentals I personally wouldn't have worried about. It's funny how people are about their stuff, though. In the moment you'll do all kinds of stupid things to protect objects that have far less value than a human life.
After the fire was out (which didn't take all that long) we all went to Donna and Jackie's house, where Kelly and Philip actually got ready to go--showers and all. We spent the rest of a thankfully low-key day there, just enjoying one another's company.
In addition to all the other things I have to be grateful for today, I have a newfound appreciation for fire alarms with batteries. The fire happened while all of us were awake, but if it had happened just a few hours earlier we all would have been asleep. I'm guessing because the fire was in the electrical system the fire alarm never actually went off. There's no telling what would have happened, but it's not unthinkable we could have slept through the popping and the bad smell and been asphyxiated by smoke in our sleep. A few hours later and we would have been somewhere else and the house might have burned down entirely.
Every day truly is precious and I am truly, truly blessed.