Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Frat Boy: Thanksgiving - Part 2

I spent a lot of time in my mom’s kitchen growing up. I’ve seen fires in kitchens but I never saw the rolling plums of smoke coming out of every possible part of the oven. I had no idea what to do.

I turned off the oven, opened the oven door letting even more smoke fill the kitchen and the basement like water spilling into a valley freed by an opening damn. I ran upstairs yelling for Kerry.

This is where my memory is a little hazy. Something led Kerry and I to get in a fight. Maybe it was me panicking and being a “know-it-all” or maybe it was Kerry being stubborn. Either way we didn’t quite know what to do and we took this out on each other.

This was a time before smart phones or even cell phones for most of us. When we tried to call our parents for help we were doing this on a landline. Somehow we figured out nothing was on fire and grease had simply hit the heating element in the oven.

The turkey was on top of a foil pan and one of us when rotating the turkey must have ripped a hole in the bottom of the pan and grease dripped down onto the bottom of the oven and hit the heating element.

The good news about grease hitting a heating element is that eventually it will burn off and the smoke will stop. The bad news is that this process creates a lot of smoke.

When we were finally done screaming at each other, we got focused on the problem (even though we were still mad at each other). Kerry said she would see what she could do to ventilate the basement and I would go get a box fan from my room.

I ran back to the PMA house, grabbed my box fan and hurried back to SAI. Back then there was a call box that listed the first initial and last name of everyone that lived in SAI. You would dial the listed five-digit number and it would call up to that person’s room. I called the number and Kerry didn’t pick up and then I called again. After the fourth try I realized that she was probably in the basement nowhere near her landline.

I went around the back of the house to and looked into the window-wells that opened into the basement. All I could see was lots of smoke and there was no sign of Kerry. Desperate to get back into the SAI, I jumped into the window-well and tried to open the window from the outside. To my surprise, the window slid up easily providing an opening that was about a foot high. I squeezed through the opening, almost fell face first into the kitchen sink, and retrieved the fan I had left at the front door.  Kerry in the meantime was on the phone getting advice from her mom (these landlines didn’t have call waiting).

After about twenty minutes the grease had burned off and the fan had cleared out the smoke from the house. As the smoke cleared away so did the tension between me and Kerry and we sat on the couch exhausted from the ordeal.

A couple hours later the group had returned from the football game and we were sharing a Thanksgiving dinner. The mashed potatoes were grey because we had cut them up the night before and they had oxidized. We didn’t exactly have fine China, I believe we had paper plates and plastic utensils and try as we might, we could not get the smell of smoke out of the basement where we ate.

A couple things have changed sense then. SAI got smoke detectors that actually work, there is no longer a call box by the front door and the windows to the basement cannot be opened from the outside and can only open about six inches.

Since that Thanksgiving, I’ve shared this holiday with either Diana’s family or my own. In some ways it was strange to spend that day away from my family but I wasn’t alone. I was with my college family.

It was that Thanksgiving that showed me, that this group of people really was my family. Things didn’t go as planned, mistakes were made, disaster seemed inevitable, voices were raised and feelings were hurt but at the end of it all we sat down and shared a meal together.

That sounds just about right for a family get-together.

I miss Kerry.  She moved away to another state, got married and has a beautiful daughter.  We keep tabs on each other over social media but that's about it.  One of the most important things that Kerry did for me was that she never hesitated to call me out when I wasn't being the best man that I could be.  At first I didn't like this directness about her but over time I learned to value this because it came from a belief that I was a better person than I was presenting.  When I met Diana and saw this same quality in her, I knew I had found something special that I needed in my life which had been missing since Kerry graduated and moved away.

No, we didn't burn down SAI and Kerry and I got into a screaming match that day, but we are still friends and I'm grateful that I spent that Thanksgiving with her and my college family.  

No comments:

Post a Comment