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Imagine your worst day ever. One of your children gets hurt, or maybe your husband calmly says after dinner one evening he wants a divorce. Both of these scenarios are awful to think about, but what is even worse is watching all of your possessions you and your husband worked so hard for go up in flames. Sometimes I would have a list of things I wanted to purchase for the house and I would review it every week. My mother says that is a trait I inherited from my father. He was a teacher with a very busy schedule who would make lists for EVERYTHING. His big yellow legal pad was never far from his side. Countless hours spent on the job seemed tolerable, with anticipation of that final reward: the paycheck. The household bills always came first on the list and then I got to “play” with whatever was left. Then one day it all goes up in smoke.
As the old saying goes “No one ever promised you a rose garden.” That was foremost in my thoughts as I watched our home, our possessions, our LIFE go up in flames.
My husband and I were a typical middle class couple. We married young right out of high school, and started our family soon after. In the years that followed, we worked hard at our respective jobs, he as a machinist, and I as a retail salesperson and early childhood education teacher. We were in pursuit of “The American Dream.”
We did okay for a couple of kids a few years out of high school. We managed to purchase our own home before we were thirty, and in between work and the children’s various activities we were very happy. As a child, I dreamed of being a juvenile detention office, a lawyer, and especially an interior designer. I found that becoming a wife allowed me to express the latter without reservation. I loved it!!! Even though we had achieved our dreams of owning a home, our inexperience about financial matters coupled with our immaturity proved to be too much. Fights became a daily occurrence. Shouting matches and eventually physical altercations became normal. Our marital troubles eventually caused us to separate, and our home was the casualty of our “domestic war.”
Living apart from my marriage was a new experience for me. Having married just a month after receiving my diploma, living independently was not something I had ever done. Five years passed. As fate would have it, we reconciled.We embarked upon a brand new start. While we were apart he had regressed into “bachelor mode.” His furnishings consisted of a mattress on the floor with no bed-frame, and clothes scattered everywhere.
My being a typical woman, I saw this as an opportunity to shop. Things were bland and uninspiring, and my goal was to bring life back to our dwelling. I spent hours trying to find the perfect rug, just the right recliner for that special corner, and LOTS and LOTS of plants for warmth. No one really cared about the décor (I thought) as long as the television and the phone worked.....and then came the fire. My shopping was not limited to just home furnishings. I also loved to shop for myself. Scarves of various colors and textures along with shoes were my favorite items.
The night before I was ill from having eaten too many raw vegetables. Ironically, I had eaten what I called my “health food salad.” No one else in my family would eat it. Maybe they knew something I didn't. I awoke the next day to the worst headache of my life, and nausea became a constant for the next few hours.
I never dreamed I’d awaken to flames shooting from my son’s bedroom. One of our daughters was the first to arise and she was out of the house before the flames became visible. That day is still a blur. It seemed as if I was having the worst nightmare ever, but reality soon set in. My husband and I, and our youngest daughter managed to get out uninjured. Being a teenager, she was adamant about saving her favorite clothes and shoes, and somehow she managed to find a box and proceeded to pack up her things as if it were moving day and not the worst day ever of her young life. Though she was able to save all of her clothing, her most prized possession, her high school diploma was claimed by the inferno.
My possessions were the last thing on my mind. My husband wore uniforms as a city bus driver, and I had my youngest daughter retrieve his clothes from the laundry room. I knew replacing them would take a while since they had to be special ordered, and I didn’t want his job to be in jeopardy. “Tomorrow,” I thought. “I’ll come back tomorrow and gather our clothing and other essentials.” I was grateful for a lot of things, but especially for one of the firemen who kindly retrieved my wedding ring and other jewelry from my bedroom nightstand. I had removed them the night before as I sometimes did, so I could apply my nightly dose of hand cream.
Tomorrow came as it always does, but my plan for the day had changed. I refer to it as the 1st fire and the 2nd fire. During the first fire there was extensive damage to the second floor. There really was no room in my son’s bedroom. The firemen later told us it started in the basement and traveled up to the roof where the flames finally appeared. Due to the time of the year, the weather did not allow us to stay in our home. My husband and I proceeded to a local motel while our daughters stayed with relatives. I remember I had a turkey in the freezer so I grabbed it on the way out. "Our house is ruined," I thought, but we still have Thanksgiving dinner to look forward to. We were all shaken but glad that no one was hurt. We laid down for the night with the idea of starting early the next day to pick up the pieces of this crisis.
By morning, our worst fears slapped us in the face just like the cold November wind. The fire had rekindled sometime during the night as we slept on the other side of town. The house and most of our possessions were a total loss.
In the days that followed, I was wallowing in my grief, grateful to be alive but agonizing over all the things I had lost. My clothes, some of which were never worn, my shoes, and the bathroom I had just finished redecorating and never got to enjoy. Time passed and as the grief was lifting, I began to realize my life does not depend upon what I owned, rather on how I lived. I still have a penchant for home furnishings, and of course, Macy’s is one of my favorite places. One big difference is things have their proper place now. Strangely enough, one of my greatest life lessons I learned from this tragedy. The greatest treasures are family and the memories we make every day. Those things will always remain.
by Sheila Clark. Read more at http://www.BrooklynAvenueJournal.com