Monday, November 3, 2008
Things I lost in the fire
When I was 16 our house burned down. What I remember about this horrible time in our lives was how devastated my mother was about pictures she feared she had lost. Pictures of my sister that had passed away when she was 5. From all the things in our house, and my parents were fairly well off ...both having pretty decent jobs at the time, so our house had lots of things that many of my friends did not... those pictures were the only things my mother cried over. Later she was nearly hysterical when she found her pictures had been smoke damaged and a little singed...but were still in good shape. She clung on to the photo albums for the next few days while we stayed in a hotel and my parents went about the business of starting over with almost nothing. I hate to confess to this...but I wasnt nearly as affected by that fire as I know I should have been. My most pressing concern was when I would be back in school...a burned down house meant only one thing to my abused mind. I was now forced to stay in constant close proximity to my father. While my mother was crying and moaning over each remembered item that was now gone forever...plagued by thoughts of "what if"...as in what if we had been in the house at the time...sleeping ...we could have been killed...I was trying to figure out how best to "disappear" in a small hotel room with nowhere to hide.
My father, who had the worst temper at the best of times...was on a rampage. Determined to discover how it had happened...ready to blame a myriad of causes...from faulty wiring to "suspicious people" he had seen near our house at one time or another. We lived outside town in a fairly isolated area...and didnt get many visitors. Later my mother, my sister and I got the suspicious feeling that my father himself had actually burned the house down. Some odd behavoir on his part seemed to confirm this fact to us...but of course we never let him know we suspected him...nor did we indicate our suspicions when the fire marshal came out to investigate. Funny enough...my own father tried to pin the fire on me by laying suspicion at my feet with a few choice phrases to the fire marshal. However, when he asked me to sit with him in his truck and answer some questions...even though I felt as if I was probably guilty of something (authority always makes you feel guilty even when your not) I also got the feeling that the fire marshall also suspected my father...but couldnt prove it. My father was an abusive psycho...but he was smart as hell. I had no problems believing that he was quite capable of burning down our house and making it look like an accident....or even pointing the finger of guilt my way. Thankfully the fire marshall did not pursue that particular line of thought....but I digress...
One thing I learned about that fire though is this...many many things we think of as important in our lives...things we just cant 'live without" are for the most part...a waste of space and money. We lost a great many things that day...we lost nearly everything...but I still had my mother and my sister...all those things were hardly worth a passing thought. I may have missed my new clock radio I had bought with babysitting money...and my school jacket...yearbooks...personal little knick knacks accumulated over time...but as days...and then weeks passed...they just became "things I lost in the fire". I got over it and moved on.
Right now Im sort of experiencing another kind of "fire". Im busy with the process of moving from one country to another. Im going home. However I find that I dont have enough money to ship my many years of accumulated things home and so I must go through them and decide whats "important" and what are just "things". I would hate for anyone to have to try and take on this emotional and heartbreaking task. School reports for 5 kids over 15 years may not be "important documents" but they are memories...memories I have to leave behind because every pound counts. The many many books I have that are like long time friends...are now gone over with a fine tooth comb...only the most beloved are making the trip with me...the rest must be given away. Oh it pains me to leave my books behind....sigh! For sure my photos are going with me...and I have alot of them...but I have been forced to go through even them and get rid of duplicates and those that are "without purpose". Every corner of the house...every shelf...every drawer holds memories of some kind or another...and I must make the painstaking decision whether or not that 'memory" is worth paying for to ship across the globe...every pound counts...aarrgghhhh! My heart is on fire....damn!
Things I lost in that fire many years ago still cross my mind on occasion but for the most part I dont think much about it...Im hoping that the devastation I feel for the things I lose in this "fire" will eventually fade with time too. Most of these things are attached to memories of my children in some way...so of course the pain is so much worse then lost year books or clock radios...but as long as I have the memories still locked in my mind...then the fire cant touch them. Im good...but oh how my heart burns....damn!