Life after the house fire became like the movie Groundhog Day. Every day was the same and I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. I had no family to call and vent my grief as the only member still alive was my sister. Through constant interference not of our own doing we had not spoken in a few years. I just couldn’t seem to pick up the phone and make the first move because I was stupid.
Life was filled with menial things like picking out wallpaper and hand painting a lot of trim. The firemen had given us a couple of boxes that were decorated like Christmas presents. They had not wanted the kids to be upset so they had wrapped up the perished pets as gifts. Since it was in the dead of winter I could not bury them so I made a tiny raft and sent them down the river.
The last pet standing was Snoopy who was an emotional mess and he now slept his life away. The dog knew things were out of his control like I did and had lost his friends in the fire so he literally gave up. I would go upstairs every few hours and coax him down to eat or go outside. But most of the time I just hugged him and cried.
I started this story last Saturday after I took pictures of homes that are now red and yellow tagged and about to slide down one of the hills in San Pablo, CA. For 21 days it has rained and anyone living on a precarious slope in the Bay Area knows the dangers. One of the homes that is red tagged was actually built on the same spot that a former residence in 1973 tumbled down to its final fate. How people can build on hills or on fault lines just for a view in this area boggles my mind.
As I drove by and watched neighbours help each other load belongings into U Hauls I understood the feelings that everyone had. Fifteen years ago my home had been ravaged by fire and I too sat there looking at destruction that I did not have any control over. I cannot begin to tell you how one feels when devastation hits your inner core as you watch something you loved vanish in a few fleeting hours.
It was a cold January day and the kids were flooding the rink outside when I noticed our German shepherd, Snoopy racing in from the greenhouse with a huge plume of black smoke trailing him. If there is an emergency I am not the one to send to an EMT unit as I panic easily. I screamed for someone to call 911 and we simply thought a hose spraying a steady stream of water into the basement window was enough to contain the fire.
The Beach Boy’s “Let’s Me Go Home,” Clapton’s “Blind Faith,” Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads,” and countless other ballads sing about going home. These rock songs keenly capture the sense of longing through their message, while many other Gospel songs on the same topic refer entirely to death. I think anytime I feel like I am in a rut or even just having a bad day I get this sense of wanting to go back in time, to revert to a place that gives me more comfort than the the world, the environment I call my home today.
Some of the places we long for aren’t places. Some of them are times, and some of them never even existed. Will a spurned child ever have a mother who loves them? Probably not, but they still hope for one, and spend their whole lives wondering why she hated them; why they were never good enough. They will spend their whole life trying to find the gift of unconditional love; a package that never arrived. They bumble, and tumble and fail and fall until one day, if they are lucky, they might realize that the unconditional love they seek must come from within and can’t be gotten from another person. Not exactly what they wanted. It doesn’t replace the love they missed out on from their mother. No one ever gets over something like that.