Oxana, a senior in high school from Moscow, was living with my family in Wilkes Barre, PA for the 1994-1995 academic year. It was my first year at Brigham Young University.
I called home January 3 or so to request a couple hundred dollars for textbooks. I was short the money, but the books needed to be purchased as classes were just starting. But the phone rang and rang and rang. No answer. How in the world could that be? We had call waiting and an answering machine. But the phone just rang. I called the fax line. No answer there either. Just more ringing.
This continues for 2 days. Ringing, ringing, ringing.
Finally I decided to call Gramma. Maybe she knew something about my parents’ situation. They were staying in the Ramada Hotel downtown. WHAT?!?! My parents?! Are you sure we’re talking about the same people?
Rewind two nights. Oxana was in the kitchen cooking something for dinner. Jessica was in her 2nd floor bedroom. Mom was downstairs with the dogs and bird, probably watching TV. Dad was up in his 2nd floor office. Dad took a call from one of the Russian-speaking exchange students. They were having major troubles adjusting to life, and needed a touch of home.
So he handed the phone to Oxana. She spoke in rapid-fire Russian, trying to reason and comfort this soul. Her dinner was progressing nicely. Once she finished, she made herself a plate, and went up to her bedroom on the 3rd floor.
The floorboards creaked as she walked up the stairs, and the large wood planks shifted as she reached the 3rd floor. A candle fell onto her bed. The bedding quickly caught fire, spreading rapidly.
She runs down to tell Dad. He grabs a blanket and runs up to the 3rd floor. Too late. The entire bed is engulfed in flames.
He runs down to the kitchen to get the fire extinguisher. With his bad knee slowing him slightly, he runs back up the 3 flights just in time to see the lights go out. Shoot! It got into the electrical system.
He runs back down to the first floor, screaming for someone to get Mom and the animals and to get out. Jessica being the darling sister she is, realizes all of my memorabilia from high school is about to go up in flames, runs into the 3rd floor to grab my cheerleading uniform. It’s a little charred, but she managed to save it for me.
The whole 3rd floor ended up engulfed in flames. The 2nd floor had water damage. Not two days earlier, my father received the fire insurance bill. Luckily he had the money to pay it. Little did they know they would be spending the next 9 months in a hotel while their home was remodeled.
Oxana’s mother called from Moscow, asking us to send her home. Never. Sure it was silly. But it wasn’t something worth denying her the experience in America. She stayed through the year and a few others with my family.