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The Closet Doors

A strange urge caused me to shut my daughter’s closet that night…

One night, many years ago, I tucked my 21-month-old daughter Julie into her crib, kissed her on the forehead and went to the living room to begin my usual routine: picking up the scattered toys from the day’s play. I always put Julie’s favorite toys in her bedroom closet, keeping one of the sliding doors open so she could see her beloved dolly, “Mrs. Beasley” when she woke up.

Colored blocks, storybooks, dolls, I put them all in a box and quietly placed it in her closet. But as I turned to creep back out, something stopped me. Close the closet doors, a voice seemed to say. Close the closet doors. I’d never felt or heard anything like that before. It was too strong an urge to ignore. Turning around, I made sure the doors were tightly closed.

That night I had a restless sleep. I dreamed Julie was calling out…Mommy! Daddy! I snapped awake. The alarm clock read 2:30 a.m. “Mommy,” I heard. I wasn’t dreaming anymore: Julie was calling out. I got out of bed and sluggishly headed down the hall. Why is it so hot in here?

Smoke! Coming from my baby’s bedroom. I ran down the hall, reached into the crib and grabbed Julie. Gray smoke filled the room, but I didn’t see any flames. Carrying out our daughter, my husband and I fled out into the frigid Minnesota night and called 911 from my grandparents’ house down the street.

The next morning I stared in horror at the burnt remains of our home. The fire chief expressed his condolences and handed me a copy of the fire report. I didn’t want to read it. What did it matter how the fire started? We’d lost everything, hadn’t we?

Not everything, I reminded myself. We had all survived. I read the report, finally stopping at the fire chief’s conclusion. “The fire began in either the electrical panel or the hot water heater,” he wrote. I gasped.

The location of both? The closet of Julie’s bedroom. The closet a voice had urged me to shut so tightly that night, holding back the fire just long enough to save my daughter’s life.

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