I mentioned the fire two posts back. I’ve been meaning to post more about the experience but I’ve been kind of busy running around this summer… I’m not sorry about that so I won’t apologize, but I’ve been meaning to tell you about some stuff.
While I do have a very strong faith, I’m not one to discuss it a whole lot — it’s just not my style. My beliefs are very personal, and not something I feel too compelled to share. They just bring me peace in my daily life and that’s enough. What you believe is likely very personal to you — and I respect that. So that’s where I’m coming from here.
But I did have something I wanted to share.
There has been so much grace bestowed upon us in the 3 months since the fire in our home. I cannot possibly mention all of the blessings, but I’ll try to get some of them.
So… some examples of the grace we’ve seen: the decision to hire a house sitter rather than send the dogs and cats to be boarded for the week or to have my mom and dad come over and let the dogs out multiple times a day. Mom tried to talk me into just letting her care for the animals: “It’ll be fun for me and Alice and it’ll give us something to do.” I said no — I knew that I’d be tweeting for Randolph and Jerry would be on Facebook talking about the Williamsburg trip and it would just be a neon sign pointing to an empty house. I hired my dear friend Christa to care for our home and our animals. If she hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t HAVE a home. She ran back into a burning building multiple times to get all of the animals and even had to search for one of them.
I have no memory of my house on fire, because I wasn’t home. I don’t remember the sight, the smell, the sound, the feel of it. I saw it the next day, but it’s not the same. I didn’t see it. Christa has that unfortunate privilege. My husband and children don’t have that memory either. We get to deal with the aftermath, but we don’t have to replay that in our heads and wonder what could have been done differently. Christa was totally objective, and acted purely on instinct. I would have wasted precious seconds trying to “save” things and possibly endangered more — myself, my animals, my family. I am forever grateful to her, and I respect her more than she will ever truly understand. There just aren’t words.
…Three neighbors who sent text messages, photos, and called me that night within minutes of the fire… One made sure I could speak to the fire inspector while I was in Nashville. So amazing. Christy, my across-the-street neighbor, went above and beyond, staying up until the wee hours of the morning until the fire personnel had all gone home.
…Jim, my husband’s boss, came over to make sure Christa was OK and to make sure that everything was being handled. He stayed for three hours and took photos in the house after the fire was out so that Jerry and I could see the extent of the damage.
…My parents took turns going over and checking on the house and simultaneously watching over our peacefully-sleeping youngest daughter who was staying in their home.
…Our friends Marc and Mary who got out of bed to go retrieve our panicky dogs, based only on a phone message. They didn’t wait to speak to me to confirm, they just got up and went. They kept the boys for a week.
…Standing on the driveway the morning after the fire, and looking at my home…. From the driveway, nothing looked amiss — but you could smell it. Oh, could you smell it. My insurance agent (Robby Rowan from State Farm in Huntsville), my mother, my mother-in-law, the man who was best man at our wedding, another of Jerry’s friends, the builder who is now rebuilding my home (Bret Slaton of Slaton Homes)… and who else was there? My priest? My boss? The owner of the restoration company? A few friends? The day is blurred for me… I don’t really remember, though all of those people were there that day… But I looked at the home next door and realized that the previous tenants had moved out the weekend before. And the kicker? Our insurance agent insures that home too so we have been able to rent the house next door to ours since the week before Easter.
…Josh and the entire crew at Jerry Minor Restoration. I cannot say enough good things about these people. Really. I’ll just sum it up with the comment that my KitchenAid Mixer has never been so clean except for the day I took it out of the box. Any idea where you put my funky costume jewelry? I miss my weird necklaces. All the spendy ones came back… No clue where the cheap stuff is. Jerry keeps telling me “it’s in a box,” but that’s not exactly helpful.
…My boss came and looked at the house the day after the fire and spent time with me and then looked at me and said, “You’re done. Take the time you need.” He didn’t want me back in Nashville with the trip I was supposed to be chaperoning. What a gift. I had two weeks to deal with the immediate needs of the insurance company and my family. It was incredible.
…My friends… Carolyn, Beverly, Connie, Claire, Pat, Ann, Lisa, Meg, Susan, Judy, Laura… and I’m sure I’ve missed some. These women brought me coffee and company and took my quilts and quilt fabric and washed everything.
…Judy, who brought me supplies for a handwork project she knew I was working on, because it was uncertain how long my sewing machines would be gone. And she knew I’d need to make something to keep myself sane. And Dale, who refunded my class/kit fee for that same handwork project so I could spend the money on things for our home.
…Alicia, who brought a full week of gluten-free food for me to eat that first week after the fire. I remember the phone call: “That’s something I can do that most people can’t! Anna and I are bringing you food.” What a gift.
…The “Mommy Mafia,” as they’re known at school (whether they realize that or not), who brought us food for the first two weeks after we were in our rental home. And our church, who picked up after that and brought us food for another month. I’m gluten-free while my skin calms down from multiple allergic reactions, and every single meal that was brought to us had gluten-free options so that I could eat too. Even the neighbor who didn’t know of my recent allergy diagnosis happened only to bring gluten-free food.
… Others who have given us incredible gifts of cash, gift cards to restaurants, fabric, paper products… The whole crew at Skyline — thank you! Lain, Ginger, Sarah, Meg, Elaine, Tiffany, Barbara and Larry … I’m forgetting people, I know. But thank you, thank you, thank you.
…My parents opened their home to us for three weeks (and would have offered more had we needed it), no questions asked. They even invited us to bring the cats, which was a huge concession on their part.
…Penny, who owns VIP Grooming in Huntsville, kept our Collies for 8 days (and would have kept them longer) for an exceedingly reduced price. When I picked them up and asked about the price, she waved me off and said, “We’ll settle it later when you know you don’t need it. I’ll keep a room open for them just in case.”
…Ken at Carpet One, who happens to be a friend of my late father-in-law… Our insurance company recommended Carpet One as the flooring company to redo all of the floors in our home. Ken already had measurements for almost every room in our house since he had replaced everything except for the upper floor previously. He came over and hugged me and measured everything and has been absolutely amazing through the whole experience.
…Beverly again, who agreed to take over being the president of the local quilt guild for next year so I could stop completely freaking out about that.
…Peggy, who helped me sort through all of the Tervis Tumblers that arrived 10 days after the fire so I could distribute them at the next quilt guild meeting and get yet another box out of the rental house.
…Claire, the city inspector assigned to our project. She just happens to be a quilter friend of mine that I’ve retreated with at the Red Rooster more than once. I know that she will make sure that everything is done right before she signs off on it, and that’s such a great thing to know.
…My students, who gave me a sense of consistency. Special thanks to Elizabeth and Sanders in particular and all of the PreCal kids in general who kept me from falling apart on a daily basis as we got to the end of the school year. One day you’ll understand just how much you’ve meant to me in the past three months.
…Matt and Jennifer, Marc and Mary, Beth, Craig and Christy, John and Laura, Karen and Scott, and the many others who have provided an escape for us in the last three months. Matt I want to thank specifically for coming and sitting with me on the back porch and just listening to me sob for an hour.
…The neighborhood kids, who know our dogs, keep bringing them back to us. The dogs are SO confused because they’re living next door to their home and they DO NOT like this house. So they keep escaping. And then they wander around until a kid finds them and brings them back. The rental house is a bit of a fortress with not a lot of external views (either because of shades or because of layout)… so we don’t see the dogs wandering the way we could in our own home. And Logic has gotten really good at doors lately.
…Sherry, Helen’s psychiatrist, who offered amazing advice about how to introduce Helen and Alice to the situation so that they’d be the most protected, and who also offered to talk to Jerry and to me if we needed some help along the way during recovery as well. So kind.
…My coworkers have been amazing. I know they’ve been tiptoeing around me since “some stuff happened” back in March, but I cannot properly thank them for all of the little loose ends they’ve picked up on my behalf since my brain left my head. I hope that one day I can repay the favor but I hope for their sakes that the circumstances aren’t quite so extreme.
…Jerry. I just… can’t even… *sigh*… I love this man, I love this man, I love this man.
There’s so much more to say. I still have good days and bad days and really dramatic swings in my emotional state. The house is still gutted and we probably won’t be in it again until at least Labor Day (my birthday!). That’s probably optimistic, though — we were told that it would be 4-6 months from the fire. We’re at 3 months now, and there are still no walls and no ceilings and there’s a big gaping hole in one side of the house where a window needs to go. So we’re a long way out. I see little bits of progress every week, and communication with our contractor is very good so I feel good about everything still. I’ll come through it OK and the house will be amazing and so much better than before, but this is NOT what I had in mind when we started making our “list of improvements to the house” back in January. The universe took that list in Google Docs very seriously, apparently — almost everything that’s still relevant is getting done either because of insurance or because of upgrades we’re choosing to make while the house is gutted.
I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone, but I do have to say that I have felt incredibly loved and supported from all sides through all of it. Sometimes I lack the wherewithal to go somewhere where I’ll be asked how things are going, and I’m thankful to have friends that understand that and don’t take it personally.
There’s no such thing as a small fire.