This is the first story that goes along with my post, "If my life were a book...".
This story belongs in Chapter II: Mom Can I...?
It was a Sunday morning and I was sitting on the couch watching "Camp Beverly Hills" on our relatively new VHS player. Dad was in the kitchen, I think, mom had gone upstairs to take a bath, and sis had spent the night with her friend Clara. It was February 4, 1990 (oh my goodness, was it 1990?). It was cold. It was overcast. It was a typical Kentucky winter day.
BOOM!! CRASH!! The garage door swung open and two of my parents wedding pictures fell off the wall behind the couch where I was sitting. I jumped up ran around the couch and gazed out into the garage before screaming, "Dad, the house is on fire!!" The only thing between me and the explosion was a wall that separated the garage from the family room. The wall was engulfed in flames from floor to ceiling. Dad ran over and said, "Get your mom and get out of the house." I ran to the bottom of the steps screaming, "Mom, mom, the house is on fire." She had heard the explosion and was already at the top of the stairs asking what happened? I don't remember our brief exchange, but mom ran down the steps grabbed and put on a pair of my sisters sweat pants before we ran out the door. I ran across the street to Shonda and Melissa's house and mom ran to my uncle Jerry's house. I was pounding on their door, but there was no answer. I noticed mom had gone inside my uncle Jerry's house, so I ran over and entered as they were calling the fire department.
My dad was outside the garage, where he had broken one of the windows, using a water hose to try and control the flames. If I remember correctly, my uncle Jerry had joined him when he noticed flames spreading under our minivan (which had been filled with gas the night before). He yelled for my dad to get away from the house. Moments after walking away there was another explosion and fire engulfed our house. As a 10 year old girl, I stood watching with much confusion as the only house I had ever known burned to the ground.
I can't begin to explain the feelings I experienced on that cold February morning. However, now that I am an adult I can only imagine the feelings and the pain my parents experienced. My parents had built our house from the ground up while my mother was pregnant with me. I wonder how hard it was for them to have lost everything, yet still have to get up in the morning, go to work, and provide/raise two young children.
We left that evening with only the clothes we were wearing, but we had one another. Everything we owned was in ash. Our car, our beds, our motorcycles, our clothes, our toys, our couch, our piano, our photos, our videos, our everything. But standing tall was our stone fireplace. We re-visited the ash several times searching for anything that might have been spared, particularly jewelry and coins. We found some. We found a photo collage that had minimal damage. Our clothes that were in the dryer were spared but wreaked of smoke. There were a few dolls and other toys that were burned around the edges. I am thankful we searched through the ash. It helped me to remember and to mourn.
We spent a few months living with my grandparents. I will never forget the generosity of our family and friends. It seems like everyone we knew bought or brought us something. New clothes, used clothes, dishes, towels, hair brushes, under wear, barbie dolls, pots, pans, iron, laundry baskets, belts, and on and on. I think that is the first memory I have of true generosity. I am sure I experienced it prior to our loss, but I can vividly remember being amazed by the amount of love and support that was shown to my family following the loss of our home.
I often wonder how my life would be different if my house would have never burned? I know that event changed us all. I don't know exactly how it changed my mom, my dad or my sister. As a matter of fact, I don't know exactly how it changed me. I think it breeded more fear in me. I know I am still fearful of fire. I think it produced in me a desire to preserve and document memorable events in my life. I know if I could choose one thing out of my house before it burned it would be a box of pictures or maybe a video. I think it taught me to be thankful for the value of another breath. I know if my sister would have been home she would have burned. I know if my uncle Jerry hadn't pulled my dad away from the garage he would also have been burned. I was so young, so it is hard to say what it taught me, but sitting here reflecting taught me that I cling to things too much. Oh, how many times do I have to be taught or shall I say reminded of my "clinging to stuff."