Safe Haven

It was dark outside, but noisy with the papagayo winds beating mercilessly against our windows and threatening to lift our roof. Sleep had been light, but still, I jumped when music blared from my nightstand. Specifically, it was my phone ringtone, which is the Star Wars Cantina Band song.

I usually put my phone on vibrate when I go to sleep, but this night I’d forgotten. I looked at the screen confused. It was just after 3 a.m., and someone was calling from an unidentified number. My screen just said, “Sweden.”

“Can you make it stop!?” Lee groaned from under his pillow where he’d buried his head.

So I answered. It was not a number I recognized from Anna or Ted, our Swedish friends, but still, Sweden = The Ankarbergs and a 3 a.m. call couldn’t be good.

Me: “Hello?”

The voice on the other line: “Good morning, Ginger! It is Anna!”

I was simultaneously relieved and confused. If someone had been mortally wounded, I don’t think her opening line would have been “Good morning.” Anna is almost always upbeat, and this appeared to be no exception. She sounded as though she were calling to ask if I wanted to go surfing or if Camille could come over for a playdate.

Me: “Hey, what’s up?”

As her story began to spill out of her and as I woke up a bit more, then I could hear the anxious edge to her voice. There was a fire at the town landfill which is not far from her neighborhood. She could hear explosions, and the smoke was terrible. They’d been told to evacuate in case the fumes were poisonous. Did we still have guests, or did we possibly have room for them?

We did still have guests, but it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d had a house full or not, I wanted them safely away from the fire and under my roof. I insisted that they come.

Camille was sleeping on our couch, having given her bedroom to Boo and Erin while they were visiting. We moved her to our bed, knowing we could cuddle a little closer and be just fine. But still, there was only one couch and four people on the way.

But some ingenuity with chair cushions, yoga mats and blankets, and soon we had enough sleeping space for everyone. Chance kept the beds warm while we waited.


I could smell the smoke even though we were several miles from the fire. We stepped onto our back porch and looked toward the valley, where we could see a large area of orange flickering firelight in the distance.

Finally, the Ankarbergs arrived on our front porch. I hugged Anna and Ted, and even though the girls usually shy away from us grown ups, I grabbed them for an embrace too. We may not always be able to talk easily with the girls, but I needed them to know we cared about them. And that they were safe.

By now it was close to 5 o’clock and the sun would be up soon. But we all managed to get a little sleep.



Then it was time for a full pot of coffee and breakfast. Anna and I had been talking about having a breakfast get-together so I could introduce them to grits. I had brought a 5-pound bag of quick grits here with me from the states, so I whipped up a pot full while Lee fried the bacon. Despite the unsettling reason for their stay, we were in good moods, and enjoyed being together.

Happily, the firefighters successfully fought the fire, so by mid-morning they could return home, which smelled a bit smoky but suffered no other damage.

I’m glad they called us. I’m glad they knew they could, as I know they would make room for us too if the tables were turned. Sometimes things get a little wild in the jungle – they can get wild anywhere, really – but it’s not so scary when you know you’re never alone.

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