I have a friend who just purchased a new home in LV. Quite a step up in the world, owning a home & I’m happy for him in this achievement. It’s his first owned home & I can remember the elation & terror I had when I was a new home owner with a roof of my own & my very own keys that jingled in my pocket like weirdly shaped coins I would never spend but would hold more value than any other piece of shaped metal in my life. I hope the new life he has in the walls of his new home is a full, happy & exciting one. I can imagine the fun he will have rehabbing it, with new colours to slather on the walls, & his own stuff inside & his own name on that mortgage. It is heady stuff to be sure.
One the other hand, I have a friend who just lost her home. She went to the market one day & returned to find the local firemen stomping about on what used to be her home & enough water to float a battleship sluicing down her driveway.
I went there the other day, @ her request, to look about for anything that may be salvageable, useful & that she may have overlooked. The acrid stench of smoke still clung in the neighbourhood. In the driveway I stood looking at the charred, skeletal remains of walls that used to house her family. Blackened fingers they were, grasping upward almost in supplication for relief from the flames that burned their wooden flesh. I walked about crunching large slabs of baseboard, drywall & what used to be furniture. Somewhere around the vicinity of what should be her kitchen I saw the corner of a picture frame jutting out from a pile of soggy ashes & cinders. I squatted down & pulled it out from underneath. Holding it up to the sunlight I wiped off what I could smearing @ the wet blackness until it was almost gone.
Her smile gleamed out from what was left of the picture, it was hers, I would know it anywhere & her baby’s chubby cheeks shone bright as well. I remembered that picture hanging over her table. I’d seen it 100X while drinking coffee, while laughing over silly things, while icing a cake for her birthday, while baking cookies for her neighbours & while sitting there worried with her over her husband’s illness.
Tears pricked the backs of my eyes when clutching that picture & the horrid realisation came to me how lucky they had been to haven’t been home. Fire is not kind, it cares not whom you are or what you have. It is an entity unto itself & it will not stop until its ravaging appetite is sated & yet- they weren’t home when it came to visit them.
I kicked about the burnt remains for another hour or poking thru burned toys, clothes, shoes, melted dishes, what used to be books & her son’s bedroom. But sadly, the only thing I was able to wrest from the grasp of this mess was that lone picture but it had a sturdy frame that had kept it safe from the flames & their love I am sure has an even more sturdy frame on which to build again.
They lost everything in that fire, everything tangible they owned, everything of value to their names except themselves & with no insurance, it would be years before they were able to acquire these things again. But- they still had themselves, & they had each other & they had been gracefully handed their lives & with life & with love, they could build again.
It was enough. It is always enough.
So I think of my friend & his new home & the wonderful fun he is going to have in its walls with his new place, with new friends, new neighbours, new streets, & new responsibilities & I hope beyond measure that those walls keep him safe & that nothing but happiness will resound in their midst.
Then I think of my other friend who has nothing left of her home save the one picture I cleaned up. In the doorway of a rental home, I handed back one rectangular frozen piece of her life, of her happiness, of her family whole & safe. A bit charred around the edges, but whose life isn’t either a bit charred or tattered around the edges in some way or for some reason?
When I left later, that scorched picture hanging over the borrowed table in her rented kitchen. I suppose in order to make it more like home, to regain some sort of semblance of order to what had now become frustration, isolation & anger. It was simply a way to make a point that no matter what life may hold for them, they would walk together even thru this fire & whatever other fire would choose to try & make them lose sight of this.
I feel for both my friends, of course in different ways; one has my elation & joy, the other my sympathy & support. I know eventually both of them will find with the new doors opened to them along the paths of their lives nothing less than more happiness. I hope it finds them both quickly & holds them close.
I won’t go back to her burnt house again, I can’t. It was too hard for me to do the first time & I can only imagine what the neighbours thought of me mucking about there while crying the entire time, (swiping away the tears with the back of my hands for that was the only part of me not covered in soot) not realising that my face was black w/the ashes in which I stood.
I drove from there with the smell of ashes in my nose, my hair & clothes. It is a smell of despair, of loss & of pain. I’ve enough cinders in my own heart to deal with, I don’t believe I can handle again the cloying lingering smell of these clingy, damp, ashes on my skin & my tears leaving clean smudges on my cheeks thru the soot smeared darkly there.