Told by Viola Nevy Orsinger
Mother had a lovely statue of St. Ann and the Virgin Mary as a young girl. In May, we would set the statue up on the bureau in our bedroom and light a votive candle in front of it. One lovely spring morning Florence and I lit the candle on the bureau next to a window. The soft spring breezes made the curtains billow into the room.
It must have been lunchtime when we smelled the smoke, and realized the curtain had caught fire and was already licking its way across the bedspread. Mother ran to the bathroom, flung up the window and shouted hysterically to the handyman next door: “Help! Help! Come help me!”
Mother had varnished the stairway that morning and very sensibly done every other step so we could get to our rooms to go to bed that night. “Ralph” she called, “Get a bucket of water and bring it up.”
Well, Dad rushed to the basement, picked up the coalscuttle that still had some ashes in the bottom from the last furnace coals. In his hurry to get it upstairs, he took every step, ran to the bathroom and added a quart of water to the ashes, rushed in and promptly deposited the contents on the bed.
In the meantime, mother, who was always calm in any emergency, picked up some blankets and smothered the fire. Within a very short time everything was under control and everyone was calmed down, breathing a sigh of relief that we had avoided a real tragedy.
When mother asked the man next door why he had not responded to her cries for help, he said: ” I thought you were having a family squabble and I should stay out of it.”