The big house across the road was on fire.
Well, not really “our” house. But a piece of our history. My husband’s great-great grandfather built it in 1870. My inlaws sold the property back in the late 1970s, and I think I was more sad to see it go than they were. It’s uninhabitable and probably unsafe to enter now, and probably was before. I’ve wanted to wander inside, and though we’ve had permission from the developer who owns it, we’ve been refused entrance by the man who farms the land and keeps some cattle over there. Sometimes we see lights in the little house at strange times, which adds a sense of mystery.
Anyway, we watched the night’s commotion from a safe distance.
A lot of smoke and flames.
A lot of lights and trucks.
We watched flashlights move from room to room.
My husband says it’s not the first time that house has seen flames.
Back in the 1950s, my inlaws sponsored a couple of families from the Netherlands, brothers. They lived and worked on the farm.
One day Mrs. K was burning paper in the furnace. She crammed it in until sparks flew up and set the wooden shingles ablaze. There was no phone in the big house, so she ran across the drive to the little house to call the fire department.
She was so scared and distraught that she broke into her native tongue. Luckily, the recipient of that call remembered that Mr. King had Dutch people living on his farm and sent help.
Mrs. K was so afraid my father-in-law would be angry.
But he laughed.
In spite of the inconvenience and damage and expense, he laughed.
He saw past all that. He saw that nobody was hurt. Realized the house was just a house. He saw the humor in the situation, and he laughed. He extended mercy and grace.
My father-in-law was an example to my husband who laughed when I stuffed the garbage disposal so full of potato peels it clogged and overflowed right before our pastor came for dinner. And our pastor had to fix it.
Who laughed when I smashed the van into the side of his dad’s car in our driveway.
Who laughed when his horse jerked me across the neighbor’s backyard during our dating days. Turk’s saddle horn caught on the clothesline, and the force uprooted both cemented-in-the-ground posts.
Who’s extended undeserved grace and mercy to me in a million ways on a million occasions.
Who shrugged his shoulders that night and said, “It’s just a house.”
I culled and dusted off this post from the archives when it showed up in my Facebook memories yesterday. We’re not laughing yet about our latest fire, though the vision of me trying to run across the field in the rain must have been pretty funny.
In the stillness,