It’s been a year and a day since The Fire. That’s a magical time frame in all those books I grew up reading. A year and a day to start over, learn who you are anew, to reflect, to choose to rise again, to feel defeated, to be sad, to find hope.
A year ago today, stunned and still smelling of smoke, we went to Kohls. We were wearing what we walked away from the fire in — our sweats and sleeping shirts. We no longer owned any socks. At first the cashier didn’t want to give us a Kohls credit card (I don’t blame her in hindsight), but a kind-hearted manager intervened. She also went in the back and got us coffee from the employee lounge. Angels in disguise work in the oddest places.
We bought the basics; underwear, socks, a pair of shoes, some pants and shirts. Things to get us through the next bewildering, overwhelming days and nights. I got some cute earrings too, because, hey I’m a girl and needed that bit of bling. I cried when I found a pair of my favorite shoes that had been burned up. Just stood in the shoe section clutching them and weeping. The bewildered clerk wandered over to ask if I was okay, and was happy when I nodded yes, and made good his escape. He couldn’t understand what it meant to me to find something that I had so profoundly lost. It was my first glimmer of hope on a long road of recovery.
In the week that followed losing everything, we felt your prayers and good thoughts. They were visceral, like getting air hugs all the time. Our amazing friends and the family we have chosen stepped in and carried us. Sarah and Ritchie started GoFundMe pages. It was embarrassing, overwhelming, and turns out every dime contributed was completely needed.
Now, a year and a day later, I am sitting in an apartment that has pots and pans and utensils. I’m wearing fuzzy socks and have more than one pair of shoes in the closet. We have a vacuum cleaner and a few books (all donated, we have not been able to bring ourselves to buy more). Our little rescue dog who woke us that night and saved our lives lies curled at my feet. Her nose and feet are twitching as she chases squirrels in her sleep. I am drinking peach tea in a coffee mug that my son Steven got me as I write this, a year and a day later. It says, “Create Change”, and I am trying to be brave and worthy of those words on a daily basis.
I am overcome with gratitude. Thank you, Barracuda and SHHS Swim Moms Amy, Cathy, Jenny, Fran, Lindsey, Stacey, Sheila, SueAnne, Karen, and more for being there with clothes, swim T-shirts, photos of our boys and the kid’s yearbooks. Thank you, Red Cross for wise words and a gift card that bought us our first necessaries. Thank you to our children who wanted to fly to us and help. Who understood that staying put and thriving was the best thing they could do. Thank you, Sarah and Ritchie for ignoring our bleats of embarrassment and starting GoFundMe pages when we said oh-gosh-no-we-couldn’t-don’t. Thank you Peg and Gary for offering to take us in. Thank you, Mom and Dad for giving us a place to stay and a car to use. Thank you, David Keilson at Sewell for getting us into a car with ease and becoming a friend in the process. Thank you to the Questers book club for sending books and a replacement Kindle and notes of encouragement and love. Thank you, Laura and Ken for love and hugs and an amazing Quilt. Thank you, Deb for props and hats and love. Thank you to my amazing Theatre Peeps, to my Arbonne family, to our dear friends in Johnson City, Tennessee, California, and Boston. Thank you to all who donated to us. I have a list of all of you. I take it out when I am low, and get to remember I am loved.
Finally, thank you to all the new friends we have made this year as we slowly felt our way back to “normal”. Like blind men, we have stumbled, been ungraceful, and terribly churlish at times. We have always been met with compassion, love, and above all been given reason to Hope. We love you, and are so very grateful for you in our lives today, a year and a day later.