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THE YOUNG FAMILY CURSE: FIRE!
The women of my family are cursed; we set fires, without malice or glee but nevertheless scorching and dangerous. Not expecting anything to happen over the holidays, I went about my usual festivities.
Around the winter solstice, a few of us gals get together for a night out at an area restaurant to catch up, to celebrate our achievements (focus on the positive), and to bemoan the catastrophes of the past twelve months (acknowledging my Russian peasant fatalism heritage). This was our second year at the same restaurant. After last year’s noisy brouhaha, they put us in an inconspicuous booth way, way back. Near the restrooms. But it did not faze us.
In honor of whatever holiday we are celebrating, I get little goofy presents for us. People need presents. One year it was an assortment of earrings. This year’s gifts were a gaggle of socks. Everyone needs warm socks, don’t you agree?
I wrapped the gifts in pretty tissue paper and tied them up with bows and shiny glass balls. Arriving at the restaurant before the others, I tucked the table’s teensy-weensy candle out of the way. Memories of when my mother set the synagogue’s carpet on fire and of last year’s flaming Chanukah card incident have made me vigilant. With the carefree smile of denial, I arranged the presents across the table. The table looked festive. My friends sat down. They smiled. We began our frolicking.
Into our second round of drinks, either the restaurant grew warmer, or the heat from our frolicking bent one section of tissue paper.
Into the candle. The teensy-weensy candle. The corner of tissue paper caught fire. Wide-eyed with surprise at the tissue paper’s betrayal, I looked over the flames at my friend. Her eyes were large. Nonchalantly, I tried to pat it out. (All I had was wine to throw on the fire – I had a vague recollection that this was bad.)
I patted and poof. The fire spread to another present. Immediately, flames erupted towards the ceiling. I heard a slight crackling. All eyes were glued to our table. The only table in the restaurant on fire. I looked at our waitperson for help. He was young, instantly almost a child young, with a stunned, ‘I-have-never-seen-this, they-didn’t-train-me-for-this,’ look on his face. The restaurant was mesmerized as the flames reached higher spreading a festive, or terrifying glow. The glass balls exploded with a series of pops then evaporated like they had never existed. My mouth fell open. The waitperson swore in French. Nonchalance pranced out the door.
Luckily, an older, more experienced waitperson came over, scooped up the Socks Flambé, and tossed them on the tile floor. In a second, the flames sputtered out.
In the watchful, quiet restaurant, we blinked. Our pupils returned to normal size.
“Can we have another round?” I asked the waiter.
“Surely,” he said putting our candle on another table. That table’s patrons posthaste blew out our candle. The waitperson picked up the crispy tissue gifts from the floor. With a smirk, he placed them on the table. “That’ll make a good review on Yelp.” I nodded mouth still open.
“We need to leave him a good tip,” said one friend.
“Yessirree,” I said nodding my head like the bobbleheads found on a car’s dashboard. They nodded back.
The festivities resumed. The flame-tinged socks were met with giggles. We left an excellent tip.
“Let’s do this again soon,” we promised each other.
“Yeah, but without the fire,” I said. More head nodding.
Safe in my home with an unlit fireplace, I vowed to myself, “I am done setting fires.” The cat meowed her approval, but I think I heard the faint laughter of my mother.
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