16 years ago we went out to do something one evening and left our young children in the able hands of our best YW teenage babysitter. I can't remember what we did, but I do remember it was a joyful occasion that included some of my adult brothers and sisters and their wives. As we drove up to the homestead at the end of our night out, our senses noted ominous signs. It was a cold November evening, but all the windows were wide open with drapes snapping in a stiff breeze. The scene evoked a puzzling mix of panic and perplexity. Why was the babysitter trying to cool down the house in this way? Did she even know all the windows were open? And of course, what every concerned parent painfully thinks when they've temporarily turned over control of their little ones to a babysitter- what happened?
As soon we opened the front door, we met the pungent odor of thoroughly burned popcorn, burned beyond recognition in a microwave, and a frightened, embarrassed young woman. She timidly explained that she had decided to make some popcorn and enjoy a video with the children. What should have been a simple, fun treat for the kids that she had prepared countless times at home with her own family became a disaster of colossal proportions for her on this evening. Not knowing at her young age that microwaves operate at different speeds, she left the popcorn bag unattended in the microwave for a few moments, and then returned at what she thought was the appropriate time to find blackened popcorn kernels strewn all over the kitchen. The bag had violently exploded in the microwave into black crusty bits and the stench of burnt corn quickly infected every corner of the house. She had resourcefully opened all windows to air out the house. Perhaps there was some secret twisted teenage desire that she could quickly detox the house and successfully eradicate any evidence of her embarrassing error.
They way I remember it then, we were not mad at her (how could we? She was young and cute and nice and perhaps the most professional, conscientious, and wholesome young woman we knew... kind of like getting mad at a puppy...); just grateful and relieved that our beloved kidlets were OK and the house still standing.
My memories of that incident now are clothed in yearning, nostalgic humor. The babysitter has grown up and now has rugrats of her own. We've made many bags of microwave popcorn since then, and some of them have been accompanied with cute thoughts of a young girl many years ago accidentally almost burning down the house just innocently trying to be the best babysitter she could be. We continue to randomly run into her at events like weddings and funerals, and at those reunions I am sure to tease her with obtuse, reckless references to popcorn, with the sole purpose of resurrecting the memory and replaying the river of emotions that ran through our lives back then.
She is still our facebook friend, so we must have moved beyond any ill will of the episode. I hope, however, that she waits until she is done reading this post before she starts another bag of popcorn for her own family!