Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday, August 13th: The day my mountain caught on fire...Again.

The Fire.

What can I say? I had hit my very personal emotional wall the night before. Not wanting to be his neighbor; with him insisting on being my neighbor. The person who 'didn't do anything wrong', even though I have clear memory of that person choking me twice. One person can only take so much, right?
I crumpled into a ball of someone who has had to take too much; I tripped over an upended basket of toys I had just cleaned up, then I threw a toy at a basket. Hard. Bubbles noticed and cried, "No Mommy!", I gathered him into my arms and cried. Parenting Fail.

Bubbles likes closure. We have gone through the following process nearly every day for a week now:
Mama, say sorry for throwing my toy.
Bubbles, I am sorry for throwing your toy. I was feeling very sad and it was wrong.
It's okay Mama, it's not your fault.
(Really, it is, but thanks, sweet thing.)
The end.

We read some books (Supergirl was on a sleepover), snuggled and fell asleep early that night. I dreamed of helicopters.

5:30 am, Thursday August 13th: Voluntary evacuation phone call.
WHAT??? Apparently there had been a fire raging nearby for nearly 12 hours. I cursed my broken wifi router for its crappy timing.

10:30 am: Mandatory evacuation phone call.

11:00 am: Giggling inappropriately at the act of packing my baby's ashes in a box, for the second time in 14 months, to rescue them from a fire.
After packing 'The Important Stuff', I hit a wall of 50% indecisiveness, 50% ennui. I had no idea what, nor desire to pack anything more.

12:00 noon: I lock the children inside because the smoke is getting bad. Also, they have taken to shoving random things into the car such as individual crayons and tubes of yogurt.

1:30 pm: First visit from the Sheriff. "Sign this or leave," they said.
"We're just looking for the cat..."

2:45 pm: Second visit from the Sheriff. "Sign this or leave," they said.
"We're just looking for the cat..."
"Sign this or leave," they repeated. I nod.

2:55 pm: Telling my eight year old to say goodbye to her house and most of her belongings.
Leaving our ten year old siamese cat, Ocean, behind - because she ran off, presumably afraid of the sudden influx of air traffic.
3:00pm: "Say goodbye to the house," I said.
"Goodbye, house," they both called.
"Say goodbye to Ocean," I choked out.
"Goodbye, Ocean Kitty!" they both shouted, loud enough for any ornery cat with a shred of sense to hear.

We drove off into the smoke, our car crammed full of chickens and ashes and papers and small plastic objects which my children somehow found meaningful and had shoved into the remaining crevices.

5:00 pm: Moving around slowly, the chickens delivered to a chicken foster home (procured by dear veterinarian friends), unsure which move to make next. I knew I had to pick up the recently discharged laptop, so 'stopped by' to visit the friend who lived a block away from there, as she had been one of the nine people who had called me while packing.
Heidi's house had burned down 18 months ago, unrelated to either fire, but she and her (documentary filmmaker) husband lost everything in 1/2 of their house/office; every archive and each and every layer of thought from which it was collected and compiled.
Her response was that of a seasoned friend and refugee.
Her first comment was, "You know you are welcome to stay here, okay? You know that, right? Whatever you need."
Her first question asked was, "I am going to the store. What kind of alcohol can I bring you?"

We stopped by on Thursday and left four days later. Their kindness, our similarly aged and ironically compatible children, their intuitively perfected assistance...their patience with our inherently early vs. late scheduled kids....all added up to the best spontaneous vacation evacuation possible.

One week later: Listening to my three year old tell the story over and over, to anyone who will listen.
"The fire not burned the house! The smoke make mama sick! The cat gone, but she okay! The fire not burn my house!"

We're going home today, to face the endless cleaning of ash and restocking of walls and shelves. I will ponder each item....should I return it to where it was, or should I just pack it up, for we all feel like leaving this place.

We are whole, but we are scarred. We have all had enough.


jw said...

I think you are possibly the strongest person I know. Love and courage!


Miss Grace said...


KJ said...


nakedjen said...'s time. seriously. i know you love that mountain. more than even i love that mountain. but i think all signs (and the universe has provided you with lots of them) say...time for a new mountain.

i have a few to spare here in utah if you want to come here. i know you do not, but i'm just offering.

one thing i do know? where ever it is that you decide to finally land will be better. and you'll be okay. because you are, above all else, one kick-ass gwendomamasurvivor. seriously.


Just Breathe said...

I can't believe that happened to you. Enough already! I will pray for you and your family.

Sophie said...

Glad everything is okay and I hope the cat turns up soon.

I agree, sounds like a new start is in order.

Bush Babe said...

Am new to your blog, but what a post to arrive on... don't know you well enough to really comment, except to say: sometimes the universe hands us signs. And I would suggest you got one mother of a smoke signal (sorry, bad pun!) with that fire.

Wishing you a fresh new page...

Anonymous said...

ok, you neglected that perfect host offered you your choice of alcohol and secondly, you call it "my" fire! damn you, you wonderful wench. I can't wait for you to be back to this smoky mountain. I miss you terribly. Also, we have an invite to see Ang in marin? Game?

Magpie said...

I'm thinking of you - hoping for the best for you.

Alexicographer said...

NC's Smoky Mountains are lovely this time (and many times) of year, and not on fire. Just sayin'.

So sorry you had to go through that. Glad everyone is mostly OK.

Liz Ditz said...

I was secretly hoping that exactly one house would uhhmm have a terrible accident, the one your totally unwanted neighbor was planning on inhabiting. Dang.

Thinking of you.

For the Long Haul said...

I totally thought of you guys when I saw this on the news. I am glad to hear you are okay and your house made it through safely.

And yeah, get the hell off that mountain. It's much safer down here... :)

Wishing you all well...

mamadaisy said...

You are headed for a complete and glorious renaissance.

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

oh how I understand.

How about we coin this year annus horribilus.. or whatever the Queen called her year of shit.

And then get together virtually and drink ourselves into a stupor?

You in?