The other evening we were driving into town when we drove past a house that had been recently gutted in a fire–it was the first time I’d noticed it, so I blurted out my alarm before I thought better of it. Quinlan was really concerned.
“What it a fire?” She asked this as we drove past the home, her eyes lingering on the burnt-out window frames, the blackened walls. “Or did somebody gun it?”
David looked at me, eyes wide. Gun it?! he mouthed. What the–??
We told her it was a fire, feeling kind of helpless in the face of her shock. And then she asked me this: “What IS a fire, Mommy?” And then I stuttered a lot, because “fire” is one of those words you just sort of know, but in no way know how to explain when a five-year-old puts you on the spot and requests that you explain it, in detail, for her.
“Well, Quinlan,” I said. I was fishing around in my brain for a definition and coming up blank, and Dave wasn’t much help, either. “I don’t know how to define a fire. That’s pretty hard.”
Saoirse spoke up from the back seat. “Well,” she said. “It’s like, burning gasses.”
Yup, we agreed. It’s just burning gasses. And then we drove the rest of the way in silence, because hot damn, sometimes our kids are too smart for us.
I can’t define fire on the spot. My seven-year-old can.
I’ve got a lot of learning to do.