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Topic: Reward (09/27/04)
TITLE: Hot Dog Day Ablaze
By Annette Bury
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One of my ugly days took place when Shelly*, from my children’s school, called asking me to help with hot dog day. I secretly crossed my fingers hoping I had a hundred other commitments. But on that particular day, I didn’t have a jam-packed schedule of running from sunrise until midnight. I mumbled, “I’ll be there.” My poor husband heard my grumbling once I hung up.
“I’m always being volunteered. Can’t the kids just stick with their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, smelly tuna fish, and cold ham?”
Walking in the next day, my rotten attitude stuck to me like toilet paper dragging on my shoe.
Shelly pulled out several jumbo-sized containers of macaroni and cheese, explaining that we’d be serving those too.
I felt a complaint tumbling forth, so I bit my lower lip, and sighed instead.
As Shelly read the directions out loud, the macaroni and cheese required six to eight hours of defrosting time. With only an hour before our troops marched in, she threw her hands up in the air declaring we’d just turn the oven up higher. When she opened the oven door, I took note of brunt crumbs and globs of goop covering the bottom. I pointed out to Shelly that my oven could use a good once over, but this one would require a carpenter crew, complete with chisels and hammers. Shelly dismissed my concerns, darting off with toot-a-lou, returning to her forthcoming class in the library.
I plunged several more containers into the oven. Grabbing a handful of napkins, I glanced at the clock. As I recalled Shelly’s words about stirring, I opened the door armed with a wooden spoon. I coughed as a gust of smoke gushed forth. My heart went into double time as I slammed the door shut.
Oh, no, the smoke alarm! I grabbed a nearby dishrag, stood on my tip toes, and fanned like an out of control blower. In less than a minute, it stopped.
Whew! I breathed a sigh of relief. Turning around, my eyes caught a glimpse of lights. Stepping into the hallway, light beams flashed like neon darts. It was like Star Wars! Beam me up, Scottie! And soon!
“What’s that?” My heart jumped to my throat as I darted back into the kitchen. The metal shutters slammed shut, blocking off the kitchen from the hallway. Dashing to the phone, I called Shelly in the library.
No answer, that’s strange?
Not sure what to do, but remembering hundreds of ravenous students would soon pounce in the lunch room, I walked into the storage closet to find the hot dog buns.
A THUMP-THUMP of heavy boots thundered in the kitchen. Walking out, I stood face to face with two firefighters.
As the firefighters towered over me, I stumbled through my story, starting with my overwhelmed life. My bad attitude had melted away as I felt like a kid with a chocolate covered face, protesting, “I dunno what happened?”
Fortunately, my embarrassment was interrupted by the phone. It was Shelly, explaining that the whole school, plus church, had been evacuated. The Kindergarteners were still standing outside in their pajamas, since it was P.J. Day, and the firefighters hadn’t given them clearance to return into a possibly hazardous situation.
I gulped back my humiliation as I whispered, “There’s no fire, just some smoke. Sorry.”
As I drove home, I realized that just like my kids, my bad attitude always gets me into messes. My reward showed up as a lesson – one wrapped in embarrassment and humiliation. At dinner that evening, the kids chattered about the fire in the school. I looked down, hoping they’d never ask, “Mom, did you start the fire?” And although they’ve had other hot dog days and nacho days, I’ve never been asked to help. As for my attitude – I’m still a work in progress!