My house smelled like graduate school last night.
Ginger and cumin. Cardamom and garlic and coriander. They used to seep through the walls of married student housing. We were the only white couple in the building sitting down to spaghetti or stroganoff or chicken noodle soup.
When I was pregnant with Caleb, I couldn't keep anything down. I worked next to a grad student from China who brought me ginger to calm my stomach. When she handed it to me, I took one smell and promptly vomited. She patted my back and shook her head. She didn't have any other suggestions. It was the year of the ox after all, and my "morning sickness" was strong, steady and stubborn.
We gave up on cream of wheat and plain rice and toast without butter, and ate with our fingers last night. Dipping our naan into the chicken tikka masala and licking our fingers when it was gone. (If I had known my former neighbors were eating this good, I would have found more excuses to visit around dinner time.)
Between the licking and the smacking, the conversation went like this:
David always starts. (I'm too busy getting my blood sugar up to a reasonable level. I'm quite near desperate by the time we pray.)
"So how was everyone's day?"
Mouths full, everyone grunts.
Then Ethan pipes up, "Mom almost burned down the house."
David looks at me. I look at my plate and work purposefully on my blood sugar.
And Olivia adds, "Yeah, but Heavenly Father saved us."
David looks questioningly at all of us and swallows his food. Just as he is about to ask for the whole story, Savannah gives it in a nutshell.
"We had to take dinner to the missionaries, but first mom had to take me to Kenzi's house and so we were in a big hurry because the missionaries have to eat at five o'clock and that's it, so Mom forgot to turn off the oven,"
Caleb interrupts, "Stove."
Savannah shoots him a look.
"It was the stove. Not the oven."
Olivia finally prompts, "Anyway..."
"Okay, mom forgot to turn off the stove (another meaningful look at Caleb) and there was a hotpad on it and when we came home a while later..."
Olivia interrupts, "It was like an hour."
Caleb corrects, "It was longer than that." He is dismayed at my carelessness.
"Anyway, when we got home the hotpad was all black and burned but the house was not!"
And then Ethan says solemnly, "And so we said a prayer."
David is all amazement by now and his hands have stopped moving to his mouth.
Olivia adds sagely, "We all knelt down and said a prayer. Right then. It's important to say thank you when Heavenly Father saves your house."
By this time my eyes are welling over and I'm still staring at my plate. Eventually I look up at David and say equally apologetically and wonderingly,
"At the very least the house should have been full of smoke."
But it wasn't. It was full of ginger and cinnamon and cardamom, and the most fragrant basmati rice you've ever smelled. I can spot a miracle a mile away. (I was trained in my youth.)
The only other time I almost burned something down was during graduate school, when I came really close to burning down our church building. I was making dinner for a crowd and got distracted socializing. (Who, me?) The missionaries showed up just in time for dinner and just in time to tell me the kitchen was full of smoke.
I have been saved twice now, by feeding the missionaries. I am inclined to think that's more than luck.