Flaming Brooms and iPhones


Our adult daughter has been living with us for SEVEN WHOLE WEEKS during her college break (which consists of Christmas, J-Term and “Touring Week” for the Lutheran college choir to showcase their voices to audiences abroad). Remember, when it comes to colleges, the more you pay, the less they stay.

And, why did the Lutheran college choir get an entire week devoted to them? So they could sing Noel in Norway while sneaking nips with the Norse in the nude?! Who says sports programs get all the resources? The choir tour delayed one week of class, depriving parents’ ability to return to their empty nest status quo. Shame on you, choir! I don’t care if you’ve won national awards and competitions.

Why am I so cranky? Because my adult daughter has now objectively witnessed our everyday behavior for long enough to declare Bill and me “nuts”—both individually and as a couple. She has threatened to admit us to an assisted living center because we’re no longer fit to live independently in our own home.

I tried to explain to Bootie that home maintenance disasters are out of our control. Last week we had a leaky sink in one house and a failing boiler at the lake cabin. UNFORTUNATELY, and this is a big, crazy I-can’t-believe-I-did-this-a-second-time-in-my-life dangerous and stupid move, I did something that couldn’t be blamed on a loose valve or corroded metal.

I had been tending a fire in the wood-burning fireplace at the cabin all day on Saturday. It was 9 pm, and Bill was snoring on the couch. Bootie Pepper was reading a book next to her snoring father. I was sober—not one drop of alcohol on board—and reading a trashy novel in my recliner next to the fireplace.

By the way, while I’m writing this post, Apple keeps messaging me, asking if I want a two-factor authentication I.D. to unlock my iPhone. WTF?! Most of the time, I can barely get my thumbprint to work, so I have to manually enter my pass code, which is, “FUAPPLE.” Why would I want to add a second authentication method? So I could spend 15 minutes trying to get into my phone to thumbs-down a song on Pandora?! (Seriously, the only person who needed “double authentication” was Hillary Clinton.) This message from Apple is another sly attempt to trick me.

How stupid does Apple think we are? We suspected that installing all the operating system updates was just a ruse by Apple to get us to buy bigger, faster iPhones to enrich the Apple giant. We were right. An Apple store employee even had the audacity to say, “Most people keep their phones for only a few years.” A FEW YEARS? I have blazers and boots that are older than the kid behind the counter. But Apple has a business plan: either brainwash me into thinking I need a new iPhone every two years or send me “updates” until my phone is so clogged up with operating shit and apps that it can’t think straight. Surprise! We’re onto you, Apple. #FUAPPLE

Sorry for the tangent, but can you relate? Anyway, I decided to stoke the fire one last time before we all retired to bed. Yes, I’ve done this hundreds of times in my life. I put on the thick welder’s mitts that we use for fireplace chores (and that Bill uses to touch my flaming hot body) and grabbed what I thought was the fire poker from the fireplace tool stand. I opened the door and poked at a burning log, thinking to myself, Wow! This log is sort of squishy. It’s like poking Jello.

Then I looked more closely at what I was doing and realized the end of what I thought was the poker was ablaze and black smoke was pouring out of the fireplace. I declared to no one in particular, “Oh shit! I put the broom in the fireplace!

The dogs woke up and started barking. Bill jumped off the sofa—still asleep—and mumbled, “Close the fireplace door!”

I did, and we all watched the bristles explode into a fireball the size of Texas. THOSE THINGS REALLY BURN FAST AND BRIGHT! You’d think they would make them out of fire retardant material, considering it’s a broom for sweeping up embers and ashes around the hearth.

My next move was completely and totally inexcusable. I didn’t think it through or discuss it with anyone. (Kinda like a guy.) I simply decided—on my own—that I needed to remove the broom from the fireplace and bring it outside to a snowbank. I yelled to Bootie Pepper, “Open the front door. I’m comin’ out with the broom!”

Bootie asked, “Wait a minute, are you talking to me or the dogs?”

Reasonable question, considering I spend an inordinate amount of time talking to the tollers.

“You,” I replied.

She snapped into action and held the front door open while I grabbed the flaming broom from the fireplace and ran through the cabin, sparks dropping onto the floor as my confused dogs covered their furry faces with their paws. I stabbed a snowbank with the flaming broom and heard a loud hissing sound as the flames snuffed out.

The traumatized tollers sprinted down the driveway, headed for the hills where sane people live.

flaming broom

When Bootie and I walked back into the cabin, Bill shook his head. “Why didn’t you just let it burn down in the fireplace?”

“I don’t know. Instinct to remove it from the house, I guess. I also thought I might be able to salvage it and use it again. By the looks of it, though, the bristles are too short to sweep up anything.”

“Mom, this isn’t the first time you’ve done this, you know,” Bootie said.

Trust me, I know. Seventeen years ago, while watching the Super Bowl with the kids (Teddy was 2 and Bootie was 5), I did THE EXACT SAME THING in our basement fireplace at home. I also asked poor Bootie to do the same thing—open the sliding door while I ran outside to the snow with a flaming broom! The children were terrified. (Bill was at work that night.)

Why? I ask you, why, have I done this twice? Um, probably early onset dementia. This is sad because Bootie is starting to keep track of these things. I tried to convince her that my slip-ups will happen less as I grow older, but she’s not buyin’ it. She’s pretty sure this whole enterprise is going in the opposite direction. She told me she’s already put a down payment on an assisted living facility, so at any minute, she can drive me up to the revolving door and kick my bony ass out of the car without stopping. Hmm. Ruthless kid.

A few days ago, when I opened the fireplace door to add a log, Bootie came up behind me and said in her Blanche-New-in-Town voice, “Let’s just stick a broom in there and see what happens!” Yeah, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna throw my iPhone in there, too and see if that “double authentication” burns bright blue. Come to think of it, now that Bootie is engaged to be married, it won’t be long before she leaves our iCloud to start her own iCloud with The Pitcher. They can figure out how to pay for 4 gigabytes of data each month! 😊 Baha!

Just when you think you’d never do something ONCE in lifetime, you end up doing it twice by your mid-50’s. Assuming I live into my 90’s, I can’t help but think there will be more flaming brooms traveling through my house on their way out to the snowbank. Who will open the front door for me? No worries. I’ll be in the nursing home, so there will be plenty of people to open the door! Joke’s on them!

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