We got up and started walking through the house: nothing on the second floor, the first, the basement; but there was still the undeniable smell of something like burning plastic in the stairwell. I walked back upstairs, checked a couple of the kids rooms; there was a strong, harsh smell coming in through the windows, so I called downstairs to my husband that it must be something outside. He went out; I did one more pass through the house then stepped out on the porch to see smoke coming out the back door of the garage (our garage is semi-detached - connected to the house by a breezeway) as Michael was saying "I found it."
"It" was a bag of paper towels he had used when he was working on staining the deck yesterday. We're so accustomed to working with latex and acrylics that it never occurred to us to read the part on the label that said "dispose of rags in a container filled with water or spontaneous combustion may occur".
We were stupid - stupid to not use our basic (geek) common sense when dealing with a volatile organic chemical. We were lucky - lucky that the bag of rags was on a concrete floor, not near anything else; lucky that the back door to the garage was open so that the smoke drifted up to the open windows so that we smelled it before a full fledged fire had started (which could have spread across to our kids rooms before we even knew what happened); lucky that we woke up when we did.
I'm inclined to think that we were a bit more than just "lucky". Before I went to bed last night, I did one last walk through the house to make sure that everything was shut down and closed up, and for some reason the thought of a house fire briefly crossed my mind. I tucked in, prayed my rosary, but even afterward felt the need to just say a few more prayers of thanksgiving for God's goodness, and praying for my family, for their protection.
Lucky - probably. Blessed - definitely. And very, very wide awake.