Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Excerpt From My Book

About a year ago I had a dream that there were birds flying over my head but as I looked closely the flock of birds were not birds, but my book. Many copies of them flying over my head. Their covers open and pages flapping like wings. It was the strangest sight and yet, in my dream, it seemed quite natural. I awoke the next morning and shared my dream with my husband. We both agreed that my book I knew I would always write was "ready to fly". My story, God's story, was ready to be told, and hopefully would "fly" off the shelves! He He!
I've been working on it on and off. Here is an excerpt from one of the chapters. Just a tease of the trauma and triumph that is what I call "my life"!

      Chapter 3

                    “Playing With Fire”

"You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. If you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes."

                           Walter Schirra, Sr.

          It’s so ironic to think of where I am now as compared to the little eleven year-old girl I was back then. I feel very safe at night being married to a State Trooper and we also now have a fifteen year old son who just recently joined our local volunteer fire department. My husband and I are so proud of the man our son is becoming. When someone asked him about what he would be doing on fire calls my husband said he would be the hose dragger. I hadn’t really thought about my own son rushing into a burning building at only age fifteen. Thankfully, he is only a junior fire fighter so he won’t be rushing into any burning buildings any time soon, and long after he has had many hours of training.

“Only heroes rush into burning buildings” I thought to myself.

 I’m content to let my son be a hose dragger for now. I don’t need my son turning into a hero anytime soon. Heroes are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. When put in the right place and the right time, many heroes are born. Yet, I would never consider myself to be a hero, even though I rushed into a burning building to find my little brother. But surely I am no hero. Heroes save lives. I tried to save my brother, but in the end I didn’t. I just couldn’t get to him. I am not a hero.
It was the winter of 1985. Coming up on our third winter in our new house. We couldn’t predict the future, we could only prepare. So we tried to prepare for a big snow storm, we never planned to lose my baby brother. But on this December morning, less than two weeks before Christmas, we were so unprepared. Some days I remember it like it was yesterday. Other days it seems more like a dream…maybe more like a nightmare…that really happened to me.
A classic Nor’easter had blown up the New England coast and saddled the southern end of Maine with twelve or more inches of heavy, wet snow. I was in the 6th grade. My older sister Melissa had moved out but I still had two younger brothers, Aaron and Justin, living at home with my parents and I. Aaron was in 3rd grade, and the baby of the family, Justin, was just three weeks away from turning five years old. Our elementary school had let us out early on Friday the 13th due to the approaching snowstorm. We were so excited to be getting out of school early. Justin was happy we were home early. We went to bed that evening with great ideas for Saturday morning. We were preparing to spend the day at home and play in all the fresh snow. There was talk of building the biggest snowman ever!
I was awoken early that next morning of December 14th to the sound of my mom’s car tires spinning in the driveway. My mom was working the early shift at Denny’s and was trying to get out of the driveway. All the heavy wet snow was making it nearly impossible for my mom to get to work. Looking back we should have seen it. A sign? Unprepared.
           “Don’t go to work, Mom.” I whispered as I crawled sleepily out of bed dragging my comforter with me and made my way to my bedroom window. I watched, holding my breath, trying not to fog the window, as my dad shoveled snow out from around my mom’s car tires. He was able to free her car from the cocoon formed by the mountain of fresh snow. Soon my mother would be on her way like any other Saturday. This time was different though. My father decided to drive my mother the 30 minute drive to work. The main roads were most likely still slippery. I went back to bed excited to be able to sleep a while longer on this Saturday morning but thinking about the fun we would have in all the new snow.
 The snow continued to fall a few more hours and began to taper off as my brothers and I began to get up and get dressed. We fixed ourselves some bowls of cereal. We were used to being left alone for several hours. I was 11 and my brothers were 8 and 4.
We went through our usual routine of finding all our mittens and boots and warm weather gear. Being as it was just two weeks before Christmas and one of first big snowstorms of the winter season our new winter weather gear was still two weeks away waiting for Christmas morning. We managed to find rain boots for my littlest brother though and we headed out into the winter wonderland.
We began trying to roll snowballs in the front yard. The snow was perfectly wet and sticky for forming snowballs. My brother Aaron and I began criss-crossing the yard with our snowballs as they collected snow and grew larger and larger. The snowballs were so heavy, picking up so much snow as we went, we could see grass underneath the paths we made with our snowballs. At last we had one large snowball fit for the bottom of our giant snowman. My brother helped me roll it to a good spot to build our snowman.
My baby brother did not find all the snowball making much fun however. His feet kept getting cold inside his little rubber boots. I asked him if he had put on the two layers of socks I told him to put on before he came outside. Of course he hadn’t. His feet were soaked. So I took him back inside. I took off his boots and his feet were bright red and so cold. I felt bad I had ignored his little cold feet while my other brother and I were so busy rolling snowballs. I rubbed his feet to warm them up and wrapped him up in a blanket on the couch and prepared him a little snack and turned on his favorite cartoons. I had snowballs to roll and I was getting hot inside with all my outdoor clothing on while attending to my little brother.
 I headed back outside with my other brother, Aaron to finish our snowman. We plodded along with great effort to build this giant snowman. There was so much snow, we were having so much fun.
“I better check on Justin”, I thought as I was pushing a snowball back toward the house.
I headed inside to check on Justin and saw him quickly run back to the couch as though he had been up to something. He was a very smart, and strong little boy. He had just recently recovered from being near death’s door with pneumonia and had also ratted my brother and I out for peeking on the Christmas presents my mom had left in the back of her car covered only by a green sheet.
“That’s not the way the sheet was” was all he would say. He didn’t know that my mom had figured out that we had spied on our Christmas presents when Justin started asking questions about who was going to be getting a certain remote control car. My mom knew we had peeked on our gifts when Justin started asking questions about specific toys in the back of the car. Sadly, he would never get to play with any of his Christmas gifts that lay waiting in the back of the car.
I looked over at our wood stove and the door was open as though Justin had been poking around and stirring the fire. He always watched everything my Dad did. He was your typical four year old too, very curious and beginning to get sneaky as he learned about his world.
We never really gave much thought to the danger of playing with fire. We went to public school and every fall we had the fire fighters come in and talk to us about fire safety. “Stop, drop, and roll” was cemented in my mind from a very early age. But the real dangers of fire never set in even though we had lost our very own home to a fire just two years prior.
We were expected to help lug wood to fill the fire box and it was typical of both my brother and I to tend the fire. We felt proud we could help maintain the fire for the house to stay warm. Regrettably, my brothers and I used to play with the fire too. We would take the wooden poker stick, used to stir the wood around, and let it catch on fire, then pull it out and hold it high and pretend we were the Statue of Liberty.
 I quickly shut the stove up and accused Justin of playing with the fire. Which is what we used to do so, looking back, it shouldn’t have surprised me at all that Justin would play with the stove. I warned him angrily not to touch the stove. He just kept saying, “I didn’t. It wasn’t me.”
“You’re the only one in here. It had to be you.”
Four year olds are great at trying to hide their mistakes and trading blame with someone else. I warned him not to touch the stove again. I asked Justin if he wanted to go back outside with my brother and me but he didn’t want to get cold again. Reluctantly, I changed the channel on the t.v. to something he would want to watch and gave him some more snacks. I covered him up on the couch and once again I was beginning to overheat with all my outdoor gear on. I cautioned him one last time about the stove and headed back outside to finally finish off our giant snowman.
As my brother Aaron and I were coming close to finishing rolling our snowballs Justin appeared at the sliding glass front door at the kitchen.
“Jen, come quick!” Justin called kind of sheepishly to me.
“What!” I hollered back. I was so frustrated that he couldn’t leave my brother and I alone to finish the snowman.
“Jen, I need you. NOW! Come quickly!” Justin screamed in a much more urgent manner this time.
I decided Justin actually needed my attention so I began the long trudge through the deep snow back to the house trying to think what could possibly be so important that he needed me so desperately. No one could have prepared me for what I was about to see.


  1. Wow. This is so touching. I'm sorry you had to go through this as a little girl.
    I want to buy your book when it's published. Do you have a title yet?

  2. I'm sure you don't remember me. I was in Aaron's class when this tragic event occurred. I remember it vividly and I've thought of you and your family often. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I'm glad I found this post on your book (was it published? I need to go search for it). My maiden name was Jaime Poland and I found you here through facebook (ha, no, I'm not a stalker). :) I hope you have a wonderful day.

    1. Hi Jaime. Thanks for stopping by. :) This is an excerpt from my book, no, it's not finished yet as I am waiting to see what direction I want to fully take it in. But this story is definitely going to remain, as this experience helped shape me into the believer that I am today. Have a great day!