The Apartment Fire
It was May of 1994 and the seven of us had moved into the third floor of a dingy one bedroom studio apartment outside the 3M Corp in Minnesota. All seven of us; my two sisters, two baby brothers, mother, stepfather and 11yr old self all shared one room. The only place in the apartment that had remotely any privacy was the bathroom everything else was an open floor layout like most studios.
My mother said we had moved here for a television part she was casted for. A "Minneapolis In The Morning" anchor type show. Which never panned out. By the time we arrived the show apparently was cancelled after only a couple episodes. Looking back I'm not sure if the gig was really ever viable to begin with since my mother only recorded an audition tape before we up a moved from Rocklin California.
Since the show was in flux whether or not it was 100% cancelled we needed a place to stay. I'm not sure how but apparently we reached out to a local Calvary Chapel in St. Paul and they helped us with I believe the first months rent. I think the reason any of these rent related details remained in my mind was because the Pastor had a silly name to me. His name was Chick. And for an 11yr old hearing a man named Chick that was strange at bests. I'm not sure if this is exactly how we were able to afford a roof over our heads but it was a rare occasion nonetheless.
Now back to the one bedroom studio apartment. While we only ended up living there for a couple months I remember it was my first time encountering a nasty little insect. Let's just say I discovered cockroaches don't get soggy in milk. Yeah these cockroaches were everywhere! They'd crawl on your face at night so you had to cover your head with your pillow case. They'd be in your shoes, on your clothes, everywhere and you guessed it in our food.
I remember one morning pouring a bowl of cereal 🥣 and taking a big bite of a crunchy angry cockroach, which I promptly spit out. They had infested every inch of our already over crowded studio apartment.
To make matters worse one evening around 4 o'clock in the morning while we were all fast asleep we heard a pounding at our door. It was our neighbor from the bottom floor apartment. The whole apartment was on fire 🔥 and she was brave enough to risk herself to rush through the smoke and try and save us.
I leaped to my feet. Grabbed my tiny briefcase 💼 and hopped over everyone and everything in my way. As I was racing down the stairs the smoke was thick but I could hear a strange crunching sound with each step. The ground felt funny but I was too busy being pumped full of adrenaline scared for my wellbeing. Finally as I was approaching the exit I could see the moonlight piercing in and reflecting across the floor. To my absolute horror was millions upon millions of fleeing cockroaches. The crunching sound on the ground was made by each stomp of my feet 🦶crushing legions of these insects like potato chips step after step.
As soon as I escaped the burning smoke and out the door I had noticed I was the first one out of the building...or so I thought. My mother was already outside the building and well composed. Following close behind me was my sisters whom my mother promptly ordered to retrieve her purse and our baby brothers.
We left this cinder of a residence not long afterwards to another transient adventure. However what I remember so clearly about this event was how for many years I felt guilty that I had been the "first" to escaped. I felt awful and selfish. It wasn't until years later when recalling the story with my sisters that I realized I had no business feeling guilty! My mother was the very first person out the door to save herself. This woman was concerned for her safety above all else. Furthermore she ordered her daughters to retrieve her personal possessions and her babies!
I look back at this bizarre experience and think what other awful feelings I might have that have been rooted in a distortion of self worth? I was just a child trying to save myself.
Today perhaps is a good time to take a minute or two and think about something that made you feel low from your childhood. Well I invite you to give yourself the permission to forgive yourself - you were a child and children shouldn't have to carry such burdens.
Thank you so much for reading 📖