Ashes

Remnants of homes in the Fountain Grove area of Santa Rosa, Calif. Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A house is not just a roof over your head.  It’s the architectural expression of a life.  It’s an extension of your personality and aesthetic. Whether its walls are carefully adorned or its laundry room is overflowing, the house tells the story of the family who lives within it.

My parents’ house burned down last week in the Northern California fires.  They lived in Santa Rosa. They retired to a house with a beautiful view and filled it with beautiful things and beautiful people who visited from all over. It was their dream home, and Mom used to joke that they’d have to roll her out of it. That was before the fire roared right down their street.

Whole communities were reduced to dust. So far the fires have scorched 220,000 acres and claimed 40 lives.

The father of a friend wrote about the ache of putting his house up for sale recently, “any place you live a life you love develops ties that bleed when you cut them.” But does it merely bleed when the loss of the home is not your choice?  And what does it mean when 3,000 are gone? Is it hemorrhaging?

I am so grateful that my parents were not there when it happened.  They were away on a trip scheduled to return the next day.  Yet “What Ifs” keep me up at night: what if they slept through it; what if they tried to gather too many vital documents; what if they searched just a little too long for their beloved cat?  Poor, sweet LouLou.

Mornings are hard. Mornings punch you in the gut with the fact that this is not a dream, that your life is forever changed. Heirlooms are gone, as are all the photos of your family before the digital age, and everything you proudly collected – art, books, model trains. And you miss your cat.

Now they wait to return to a pile of ash. And they are resilient. They are sad but determined. Frustrated but hopeful.  They do not regret.  They do not despair.  They are alive, and they are making plans. They are amazing. We are lucky.

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13 comments
  1. Albertina Valdez said:

    Querida Kathryn,

    I’m so sorry. You’re all in my thoughts in prayers. I’m heartbroken for your losses. Thank God your parents are safe. Sending love always but especially today.

    Love,
    Betina

    • busyk said:

      Gracias, Betina querida. xo

  2. Oh, Kathryn…I’m so sorry for you and your parents! It is a blessing that they are safe, but WOW what a loss. I can very much relate to finding a dream home, filling it with only your most treasured things and offering it up for friends and neighbors to visit. I’ve told my daughter “I’ll die here!” many times, as I don’t have another move in me and it’s the perfect place. Sending hugs. If mom and dad find themselves in my neighborhood here in Carmel, I’d welcome them for a glass of vino!

    • busyk said:

      Don’t be surprised if I take you up on it! Thank you for your kind words.

      • I would absolutely love it if you took me up on it…ours is the house with the three doxies barking at the gate! P.S. I hope you saw that I thanked you for reading in my six month celebratory post

  3. Craig Kimberley said:

    Thanks Kathryn. Much love to uou and your family. They got this.

    • busyk said:

      right back at you, big guy. xo

  4. My condolences for the loss of LouLou. This is a well written post but it doesn’t feel right to like something that encompasses such loss. Things can be replaced but people can’t and so for that I’m grateful that your family is safe minus your beloved pet. That said you’ve encapsulated how painful this is and I’m sorry that they will endure this pain and trust they will. Wishing you and your family the best.

    • busyk said:

      Thank you, Lloyd. This isn’t a typical blog post for me, but writing it helps me understand my own process. Hopefully sharing it will allow others to be able to better empathize and support. Knowing so many people are thinking of us buoys the spirit.

    • busyk said:

      It’s really hard to understand the enormity. I’m glad you had time to make it out with your dogs and your important papers. No doubt this will bond the community in ways that we can’t imagine. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      • In some ways I think this will change the community in permanent ways. But having lived through the 1994 Northridge earthquake in So Cal and the 2014 Napa quake, I also notice how quickly we put things behind us and return to normal.

  5. Kathryn… sending love and resilient vibes to your whole family.
    thank you for sharing this…
    xJ

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