This I Believe

katie - berea, Kentucky
Entered on November 27, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: setbacks

I believe that life is a mirage of emotions. That everything happens for a reason, or at least that’s what I must tell myself to get through them. I believe that there is no right or wrong choices, just right or wrong reactions to those choices. And I believe that above all, the only way to survive in this world or any other is to have the ability to laugh.

I was 12 the day I stood in my front yard and watched my house burn down. A fine sheet of November rain continually floated to the earth seemingly unaware of the devastation. I remained motionless, cemented to the lawn, to the slippery eels of grass, transfixed on the rhythmic swaying of the smoke as it rose into the gray sky and waited for my reality to return.

I had came home from a grueling day of middle school to a stinky, empty house and decided to light a Yankee Candle, the one that smelled like vanilla, and sat it on my wicker wardrobe next to a full bottle of nail polish remover and went about the business of promptly not doing my homework. An hour later, standing in the rain, the sequence of events kept playing in my mind: you lit it, you sat it down, and you burned down your house. “Sweetie, you really should get checked out by the EMTs,” some overly nice and falsely understanding voice suggested. You lit it; you sat it next to a FULL bottle of nail polish remover, and walked away…

A machine’s familiar hum pulled in somewhere close and broke my concentration. It was my mom’s Plymouth with the crappy carburetor and for a moment I became quite angry that someone had the audacity to rat me out. Panicked at the idea of what I was sure to be the biggest spanking of any child’s life, I ran toward the direction of the noise, wildly thinking of excuses, good reasons why I had to burn our house down. As I ran, the rain sheet wrapped around me, ensuring that none of me was dry and the eels tickled my blistered, bare feet that throbbed with their every meeting with the ground. But the running, the cold, the pain, even the rain halted when I watched my mother rise slowly out of her car, her hand to her mouth, shrouded in disbelief. She stared at the dancing smoke, the sheets of rain, the intruders and their equipment bustling around our home, and then she saw me—poor pitiful me. I lunged at her, all possible excuses melting away from consciousness. She grabbed me and held me, not hugged, held like I was a baby. And in the security of her arms, I wept like one.

After what could have been days, I managed to loosen my grip on her and look her square in the face. She needed an explanation, a reason for all this chaos. So after summoning all my courage and wiping away some snot, I sighed heavily and said, “We are never wearing nail polish again.” My mom’s pursed mouth relaxed into the biggest smile imaginable and a genuine laugh left her and rose with a vengeance to the nasty, gray sky and the taunting, black smoke. She grabbed me again and we stood in our front yard watching our house burn down, smiling and unbeaten.