There’s an episode of Modern Family where one of the smoke detectors in the house keeps beeping randomly. Phil, the dad, roams the house making it his personal mission to stop it, even breaking out the baseball bat at one point.
It was hysterical when I first saw it on TV. This past Friday night when it happened at my house? Not so much.
We have two smoke detectors — one upstairs and one down. The one upstairs started chirping once every minute or so on Friday afternoon. Every time he’d hear it, Louie the Wonder Pup would freak out for a second, look up at the fire alarm and then survey the house for intruders. Then he’d settle back down.
The kids, of course, were sure that the house was on fire (not the case). I grabbed it down and yanked out the batteries. Then we spent another half hour or so trying to find “good” batteries, plopped them in and hooked it back up. Done.
What? I looked at the kids and we figured we must have put in a dud battery. Down it came. New batteries were tested and installed.
“I’ll take care of it later when your dad gets home,” I told them as I glared at the detector and pulled the batteries out of it again. “We still have the one downstairs.”
I told S about it and he tried all the same things to no avail. He figured it must have malfunctioned somehow and promised to get a new one the next morning. After all, he and my daughter were heading out for the annual Girl Scout Daddy-Daughter Dance that evening. No problem.
After they left, the boys and I were sitting downstairs watching TV when we heard it.
“Did your dad move that other alarm down here? What is happening?”
After ripping another detector from the ceiling and googling the brand, I discovered that this particular alarm had an “end-of-life” signal — the infamous chirp. After being in use for 10 years, it would sound this signal every 60 seconds or so.
It had, in fact, been 10 years. When we moved into this house, I was heavily pregnant with the twins. I remember after they were born, I was anxious about everything. I must have seen some report about the “Silent Killer Carbon Monoxide” because I recall wheedling S about getting new fire alarms with CO monitors. At the first time change, while the twins were still virtual newborns, S decided it was easier to change out the smoke detectors than deal with a nervous wife.
It hit me then — it’s been 10 years of living in this house. The twins are in fourth grade and M is already in high school. I usually think of a decade as a long, long time span. You know, the kind of period that marks changes in music, hair styles, pop culture — generations, for goodness sake.
But here I am, and I can remember 10 years ago like it was almost yesterday. How much has changed. How the kids have grown. How we’ve moved from the clutter of jumbo-sized plastic kids’ toys to video games, air hockey tables and instruments. How the never-ending parade of teeny-tiny cute baby clothes has given way to the never-ending parade of jeans, dark t-shirts and yoga pants. How I feel almost exactly the same and yet completely different. Weird.
I ran to the store that evening and picked up two new smoke detectors (because even though I’m older, my anxiety about having working fire/CO alarms in the house has never lessened). I bought the same brand with a new 10-year lease on life.
2024. Wonder what we’ll be like then.