I had two children, a daughter and a son. We were living in a small house out in the woods, more of a shack really, with only a front room and a back bedroom and a rough kitchen. It was the middle of winter. The trees were bare and there were deep snowdrifts on the ground outside. There was a desk against the wall in the front room and there was a glowing fire burning on the hardwood floor under the desk. The couches in the front room had been pushed from their normal places and into a circle around the desk in order to be closer to the warmth from the fire. The moonlight in the windows and the glow from the fire provided the only light in the room.
I was very tired and I stretched out on one of the couches under a flannel blanket. The children were over by the desk. The boy sat on the floor beside the fire, playing with a toy semi truck, driving it up to the edge of the fire and then driving it away, as though he were making deliveries to the fire. The girl stood beside the fire, poking at it cautiously with a stick and trying to be careful not to let the flames catch on the hem of her nightgown. I called the girl over. I told her that she needed to keep an eye on the fire while I slept. She had to make sure that it didn’t spread out of control and burn down the whole shack. It was dangerous enough having it burn on the wood floor and under the wooden desk.
The girl seemed angry at being given the responsibility. She stood beside the couch, pouting and fidgeting and glaring resentfully at the fire. I reminded her that she was the oldest, that I could trust her to take care of the fire better than her brother. I grew more and more drowsy, mumbling on and on, trying to reassure her. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for another second. Just as I was about to drift off completely, I realized that I hadn’t told her what to do if the fire started to spread. I hadn’t shown her how to put it out. But I couldn’t stay awake, and so I fell asleep, hoping she’d figure out what to do.