Everyone has something they are afraid of more than anything. When I was a kid, I was deathly afraid of fire.
I do not remember when or why I decided fire was scary, but I know that by my third birthday I could not even be in the same room as fire. When my mom brought out my birthday cake with the candles lit, I ran from the room and refused to go back in until the candles were blown out. So, my parents had one of the other kids blow them out for me. That is the first time I remember being afraid of fire.
From that moment until I turned seven, I could not be near fire. I would even leave the room when other family members had birthday cakes with their candles lit.
The first time I found the courage to blow out my own candles was for my fifth birthday. My parents threw a huge Mickey Mouse-themed party for me and invited all of my friends from school. I did not want to embarrass myself in front of my friends, so I stayed in the room when they brought out the cake with lit candles. I did not take my eyes off the fire as everyone sang “Happy Birthday.” When the song ended, I took a deep breath without taking my eyes off the candles and blew them out as fast as I could. I had finally gotten over my fear of being in the same room with fire.
Or so I thought.
A few months later, I invited my dad to have a tea party with me and my stuffed animals. I had gotten a small plastic tea set for my birthday and Dad did not have church until later that day, so he sat with me and pretended to drink tea from the miniature cups while we talked about nothing in particular.
Since it was fairly early on a Saturday morning, Dad decided to make some toast to go along with our “tea.” We had one of those older toasters that look like an oven and took a bit longer to toast.
So while we waited, we went out the kitchen’s swinging door to the living room and started pouring the “tea” and talking. A few minutes later, Dad paused and got a serious look on his face.
“Do you smell smoke?” Dad said.
He turned around. There was smoke coming through the swinging door to the kitchen.
Dad jumped up and ran through the door. I followed him and stood by the door.
“There’s fire, there’s fire!” Dad shouted as he opened the door to the toaster.
There were yellow flames stretching out from the box and they hit Dad in the face.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch,” Dad said as he pulled back and rubbed his face.
I had never been so afraid of fire until that moment and as Dad called our maid Carmen to help him, I ran. I ran as fast as my little 5-year-old legs would carry me.
When I got to our garage at the front of the house, I hid behind one of the columns near the car and began to cry.
A few minutes later, I heard Dad calling my name. He said everything was OK and they had put out the fire. I slowly walked back into the house. Dad’s eyebrows and the short hairs that made up his beard were gone. But he hugged me and reassured me he was OK and asked if I wanted to see the burnt toast pieces that were left.
I never had as bad of an experience with fire after that, but it gave me a pretty big scare. Eventually, I got over my fear of blowing out candles and even learned how to run my finger through a flame on a candle.
But I still cannot light a match.