If Jane wasn’t known as an irresponsible babysitter before sitting for us one steamy summer night she definitely was afterwards. Pregnant at age 16 she must have been the only sitter in our inner city Cincinnati neighborhood with availability that evening. After she put us all in bed, she went outside for a cigarette. She had a situation on her hands when she realized she forgot to take a key with her.
Our house was a three-story yellow brick, oak and stucco Tudor style and we all slept upstairs. At age ten I was the oldest child so presumably the most logical person to wake up and regain entry before my parents came home. My second floor bedroom had one door to a balcony and it had one window with a bird’s eye view of the small basketball court down below.
I was already convinced the stone basement that our 80-year-old house, where my father stored his cobwebbed bottles of dandelion wine, was haunted. I didn’t help that I recently greeted my mother at the top of the basement stairs with no eyebrows and a smoking hairdo from an unsuccessful attempt at lighting the pilot light of our gas furnace. I was also afraid of the third floor attic where my brother slept because a 5’ diameter whole house fan, a.k.a. kitchen disposal capable of devouring small children, resided at the top of the stairs. Though it did provide our parents an effective area to store Christmas presents.
A fireman in full regalia floating in mid air tapping on my window politely asking me to come downstairs was not a pleasant thing to wake up to. After my screams subsided, I realized that while I had not been a bed wetter prior to this event an exception to the rule had been made. I’ll never forget the less-than-holy feelings I had for cigarette-holding Jane and the St. Bernard Fire Department as I opened the antique cut-glass front door standing in wet pajamas.