Fire

Shabbat Shalom

It is Friday night and I’m alone. I swapped out of the hospital. Steve is there now. I came home to rest. Jacob doesn’t get that. At times I feel guilty for taking breaks. He has 14 hours at the hospital with zero breaks.

 But tonight he comes home and I’m thankful for that.

I lit the candles by myself. 

I put the candles in the sink as I have a complicated relationship with fire. I am drawn to it and it to me. 

It has been this way since I first remember, this obsession over fire. 

I recall one memory where I got a “magic candle.” I remember this time being close to my bat mitzvah so I’m assuming I’m 12. This “magic” candle promised treasures inside. I lit and it and watched. It was going too slowly for my impatience so I had the genius idea to take small pieces of paper and bundle them up and set them afire on the side of the candles. And it was brilliant. I watched as the candle was taking heat from all angles. Burn baby burn.

And then woosh! Big fire. I called out and dad came like always. 

To puts out fires. 

He does that not just for me, but for the entire family, extended included. It’s a big job and not one that you can ever “retire” from. I thought at one point I could help carry the burden, but now I just add to it.

I need him now more than ever. Her too.

But that incident did not deter me, anything but. I am always the closest to the fire as often I’m the one feeding it. It is often my idea to build it in the first place.  I’m an excellent fire builder. I’m not bragging, its just fact. I refuse to cheat and use a “fire log.” Fire logs are for losers. All humans should be able to make fire. It should even be part of the every coming of age rite/ ritual. 

Read torah. Build Fire. Now man.

I know why I love fire, I love watching it. You can build fire and after fire, but one is never the same. Fire is an element and is run by the elements. The wind (air), the humidity (water) in the air, the placement of one piece of wood against another (earth), all of these pieces will affect your ability to make fire. They need to work in synchronicity to make it grow. And fire dances! It never dances the same and it never dances alone. Flames join, collide, and fuel one another. It is the ultimate installation art. I could watch it for hours.

Fire also destroys. It consumed all my adolescent memories. All the yearbooks. All the pictures. All the collections. All the “stuff.”

My family home was destroyed by arson. 

Our whole house went up in flames. We lost it all. Nothing salvageable. 

And for the first time, this factoid has intrigued me as I’m in the search for anomalies. And I realized that I do not know one other person in my life who is victim of arson. I know of 3 people affected by a fire, but not one from arson. Arson is different. Arson is done with purpose. You have to be chosen.

I just looked up how statistically relevant arson is in the USA. And I was shocked by two things. One, fire-related incidents are rare. And if you are a follower of history, fire used to be anything but rare. It was the norm. Cities built and rebuilt every year. Homes were built with wood, used fire to warm and light them. We collided with fire daily. We have come a long way. I was happily surprised by this factoid. In 2017 only 22,364 fire-related incidents were reported. Of these, there were 6,916 incidents reported as “Incendiary or Arson.” This is a small number.

6,916 is a VERY small number. Think of all the homes and buildings in the USA. Even small-town USA has that many houses and commercial spaces in their town, population 10,000. Turns out having someone put a match to your home is anything but standard. 

That number feels even smaller to me as my current readings of choice have BIG numbers.  In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the USA, add to the millions already existing. And think of the world’s numbers. So fire is VERY rare. Unlike cancer.

Another anomaly. 

And we rebuilt.

The house. We rebuilt it. That’s what you do. You rebuild it again and again.

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