I might never leave home again. Seriously, three weeks into our return – after being displaced by a horrific tragic fire – I have found new life, boundless hope, and renewed energy to live most fully… right here.
Losing Alex was indeed the most horrible thing I’ve ever experienced. This fire, which consumed in a matter of minutes a life time of memories and treasures for both my husband and me, ranks a very close second most horrible experience.
The gift from Alex’s death was my commitment to live authentically and robustly for the rest of my life In quiet moments I often thank him for that. I believe the gift from the fire is having a better perspective on what matters most.
Beginning on the day of the fire, even while it was in progress, my husband and I benefitted from the love and concern of our neighbors. As I have written elsewhere on this blog, we had known them for only a few weeks. Yet they were with us as if we were lifelong friends.
I have also realized how important shared history and experiences are. Dozens of people reached out to help, in many cases motivated by their own experiences and losses caused by a house fires. They provided practical things like food, clothes, money, as well as the intangibles – like prayers. I was surprised to learn how many people we knew who had at some point in their lives been touched personally or through family members by losses caused by a house fire.
As our home was being rebuilt, I was required to make decisions on design, materials, colors, fixtures, finishes – all the minor details as well as the significant building choices. Throughout the months I was doing this, I really felt inadequate for the task and definitely unqualified for the job. So I decided after unsuccessfully searching for interior design assistance, that I would just make this home work for us and what we need now and for the remaining years of our lives.
It has been amusing to me when dealers have pointed out our 10-, 15-, 20-year warranties that we are “good to go!” At ages 74 and 70, Walt and I are going to be lucky to outlive the warranties on everything in this house.
In the past I have heard that one should use only colors that are trending for the interior walls. However, I decided to choose colors I like and that make me feel happy and peaceful. I took down walls to open spaces in the kitchen, dining room and living room. That will be especially handy when we have family gatherings at holidays. And we gained a new, larger sunroom because the previous one was not up to code and the changes we had to make resulted in an additional sacred space. There are lots of those spaces in our renewed house. The sunroom is a bright yellow with a blue ceiling and is definitely a favorite place for breakfast, snacks, or just relaxing in the rocking chair.
The kitchen is bigger and more open since we took down the wall adjoining the dining room. One of my favorite things about it (out of many great, personalized features) is that it has two full-sized ovens! I love to cook! Baking therapy is always interesting, mostly satisfying and usually produces good results which my family and friends can enjoy.
The living room is furnished with comfort as the key. I have always wanted a chaise lounge but would certainly never have bought one before the fire because we had plenty of furniture, albeit old and handed-down. But with the tragedy of losing all the upholstered furniture we owned came the gift of buying new things and I only bought what was necessary and comfortable. As much as I dislike shopping, the satisfaction of making a find at consignment, Goodwill, and Habitat stores was noteworthy for me.
And the last room to get organized in our new home is the one which prompted my first thought for this blog entry: my sewing room. You should see it. The walls are a soft yellow, the color of butter. Outside the window is a glorious old magnolia tree. I opted not to put carpet in that room so as not to lose needles and pins in it and to make clean up much easier. I am using my mother’s old dining room table as my sewing table. With the leafs up on either side and two extensions in the middle, there is plenty of space for spreading out fabrics to cut. The lighting above the table was purposefully put in place so that I have lots of light over my sewing machine. Now I am ready to get started again on making quilts; I have several already in the queue, in my mind’s eye, so I am anxious to bring them to life. Winter is on the way and I imagine myself hibernating in that room with plenty of work to do.
And if I need a break, I can go to any of the lovely sacred places: the sunroom, the deck off our bedroom, the patio next to our small fish pond, the living room with comfy seating, or I can go to the den and enjoy a movie on the big-screen tv.
All of that may sound materialistic. Goodness knows I am very aware that all could be gone in a heartbeat. But with the help of so many people – from the firemen who responded to the alarm, to the neighbors who gave us shelter, and friends who shared generously in a variety of ways – we have recovered whatever was possible, replaced whatever was necessary and have gained a renewed perspective on the tragedy transformed into a hopeful, happy home.