May 23, 2010 1:26:00 AM
You probably saw the smoke that Friday morning. It was hard to miss. For a while it seemed that the entire Southside was in danger of becoming an inferno.
A faded beauty of a mansion burst into flames practically in our backyard. By the time I stepped out of the back door, trees were blazing over the roofs of three-storied homes. Our yard, and some of our rear rooms, were already scarily smoky.
My husband, Chris, ran, phone in hand, to awaken our friends, Jyl and Greg -- and to call 911.
"Go check on Mother Goose," I shrieked to him, realizing that the fire was directly next to her home. Of course, even at 6:30 in the morning, she was there, huddled on the sidewalk with so many of our friends. Owners of wonderful old homes like "The Painted Lady," and those a bit less historic, like ours, gathered in shock.
The Columbus Fire Department arrived in seconds. They fought a heroic battle with a ruthless foe. Alas, not even aided by an ocean of our neighbor''s tears, could that fight be won.
What a sad group had assembled. Homeowners from blocks around watched, stunned to witness such tragedy. The house, once known as Sharp''s Boarding House, was consumed from within. That was the heart of the problem. The fire began with some faulty wires hidden high in the attic. By the time the flames were visible, it was too late.
She was in a sort of owner-limbo. The charming tenants were planning to purchase the lovely old belle. They would have brought her back to her elegant, youthful beauty. Regrettably, the timing was amiss.
Still, today, the smell of smoke lingers. The graceful curve of her sweeping skirt of a porch is charred. Jagged shards of shattered windows reveal only blackness within. She was beautiful, once. Now, this old lady home seems haunted. She will never be the same.
Other scars remain. These days, I am more aware of the fire engines'' shrieks. When I hear them, I stop, and say a prayer for the firefighters, and for those people at their destination. I suppose others on my block have the same sort of post trauma stress. The house wasn''t really ours. But, like so much of Columbus, we considered her our own. "Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee", and for us all.
However heartbreaking this story, there is reason to smile. Our firemen saved an historic neighborhood, and, most importantly, the home of Columbus'' favorite character. What a Mothers'' Day gift!
Mother Goose, and her sweet cottage, are both safe. Our neighborhood, too, survived. Thank you, all who put yourselves in such jeopardy. We are strangers to you, but we love you, and consider you friends. I feel like kissing a fireman ... or maybe two!
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.