Day 12 of the “Find the ‘Awesome’ in Your Family!” Challenge started in a meandering kind of a way – much like most days – but unfolded very differently. It ended with a bushfire emergency, an evacuation and a direct threat to our home.
This was the daily challenge email:
I’d actually spent quite a bit of time that morning pondering how I was going to blog this challenge because we didn’t need to be anywhere that day. There was no rushing about. No uncooperative children. No nagging or yelling or losing it. No agitation.
Little did I know that only a short time later we would have all of that and then some.
We woke up as usual, had breakfast, did some housework, watched some TV together. Our entire suburb had been surrounded by smoke for days because of hazard reduction burning that was being done in our area, so the presence of smoke was not an immediate sign that anything was wrong. It was a “controlled” burn, so not even on my radar. It was business as usual.
It was an unseasonally warm spring day (temperatures would exceed thirty degrees) and the morning was met with very strong winds. Mr Zilla rang me at around 9:30am, suggesting that I should keep an eye on things because he was worried that the burn could get out of control, something which had never even occurred to me. I thought he was being his typically over-cautious self but it turned out that we would be rushing out the door just two hours later.
I was in my kitchen when it happened. The boys were having a morning snack at 11:15am and I absent-mindedly gazed out the window while they were both eating. I could see that the thick blanket of smoke had significantly increased in volume and was surrounding the house, despite the presence of gale force winds that should have been blowing it all away. That couldn’t be good. Then I heard helicopters in the distance. That couldn’t be good either.
I walked out my front door and there it was, right in front of me. Two towering pillars of thick, billowing smoke that looked like they were rising from directly behind the row of houses across the street, the only houses that stood between us and many kilometres of dense, inaccessible bushland. Bushland that was currently ablaze on a very hot and windy day. Fuck. That was definitely not good. Seconds later, four fire engines rushed past me with sirens blaring, headed for the national forest at the end of our street. Fuck. That was really, definitely not good.
There was no way of knowing how bad it was, how close it was, what area it covered, what direction it was moving in, how fast it was moving. None of these things mattered. The only thing that mattered to me was getting the hell out of there before the only road back into town was closed down and consumed by fire, which it eventually was.
I tend to stay pretty calm and clear-headed in a crisis but my body had other ideas. My mouth went so dry I could barely swallow, heart beating loudly and rapidly in my chest, my limbs started shaking, I mentally blanked. I remained outwardly calm for the sake of the kids but I was battling serious inner turmoil and my mind was racing. Instead of methodically going from room to room to pack a small bag with some obvious necessities I found myself rushing around in barely-contained panic, forgetting what I went in there for in the first place, phone in hand and cursing loudly as I was trying to contact Mr Zilla, who had decided to leave his “on-silent” mobile phone in his top drawer and not look at it despite his earlier warning.
All of this was not helped by the fact that my kids had no idea that anything was wrong, and couldn’t understand why I was scurrying around in haphazard circles, ignoring them and their requests. There was lots of rushing about, lots of me nagging uncooperative children to put their damn shoes on and lots of agitation. There was lots of Mama-almost-losing-it.
In the midst of the confusion my 16 month old had made his way into one of the kitchen cupboards with a baby-proof lock I had failed to secure in the rush. Luckily I only walked in on him covered in yoghurt with one shoe on, flinging handfuls of dried spaghetti around the kitchen when he might have been sucking down on a bottle of Drano instead.
And then there was Mr 3.5, who kept following me from room to room nagging me to put a DVD on and to find his sunglasses for him, over and over again in that gratingly whiny way that three year olds excel at. It took every fibre of my being not to yell back at him “We can’t watch a bloody movie right now and I don’t give a FUCK about your damn sunglasses. Your fucking sunglasses DON’T MATTER!”.
The only thing that mattered was getting my kids out of there, and we were gone in fifteen minutes. So yeah, Day 12 I wasn’t very organised but I kept my kids safe. That’s pretty awesome. Even if it involved lots of yelling, nagging, uncooperative children, agitation, losing my shit and rushing about.
Previous post in the series DAY ELEVEN: If you catch yourself feeling guilty, say to yourself “I love myself and my children”.
Next post in the series DAY THIRTEEN: Remember a lovely memory from your childhood.