On Thursday, December 30, our house was obliterated in Boulder County’s Marshall Fire, along with nearly one thousand other homes in Louisville and Superior, Colorado. I’m grateful to everyone who reached out, sent a text, left a voicemail message, messaged us on FB. It is the embrace of a far-flung network of friends and acquaintances across the country and from various chapters of our lives that has been most meaningful. Although we couldn’t hope to reply to each person, we are grateful for everyone’s thoughts and prayers.
We've lost a houseful of stuff that represents both an accretion of crap that we should have thrown out years ago and memories of family and friends who are no longer around. On the one hand, we lost several dozen rolls of toilet paper, boxes of q-tips, a new Roku I had bought and not installed, my business school textbooks on statistics, and the piles of paper that Julie nagged me to clean up or move out of her sight.
More important and impossible to replace, we lost the boys' baby books, albums of pictures dating back generations, the dress my mother wore to our wedding, a framed note Julie's grandmother wrote to her on an early birthday, handwritten recipe cards from relatives long gone, and about 20,000 cherished Lego pieces. This is not the way you want to clean house, but it is frightfully and horrifically effective. There are better ways to empty your closets that also leave your closets intact.
I'm also thinking about how heavily we Americans live on the earth and imagining ways to build back more intentionally, efficiently, and responsibly. I want my life back. Julie and I are eager to build our future together. And if that life is greener and simpler, all the better. (Burning a house adds a lot of carbon to the atmosphere. Will State Farm pay for a carbon offset?)
The practical update:
Julie and I are both safe, with our dog, in the home of friends. Special thanks to those who have offered specific assistance, the loan of a car, access to your closet, old Medtronic swag (for Julie). One friend offered to do time-consuming research on our behalf. I'll remember to pay that one forward.
We were slightly fortunate in that we were out of town when we received the evacuation order. We had a car, our small suitcases, the dog. We were spared the horribly brief five minutes of standing in the house trying to decide what to carry with us that inexorably would have led to days and months of regretting the choices we made.
We were not caught in crawling traffic headed east while we watched smoke and flames in our rearview mirror. We were welcomed into my aunt's home in Denver on Thursday night where we watched the news and were embraced by people who love us and whom we love.
At the moment, we are working with the insurance company, two realtors and friends to find temporary housing, canceling utilities and subscriptions, and finding the small, normal occurrences that remind us life goes on.
Our older son arrives today and will undoubtedly provide elaborate, home-cooked meals, humor and the sounds of cello. It is great to have our younger son and his girlfriend nearby. Both boys will, I am sure, offer me fashion advice as I replace my wardrobe.
To a great degree we don't even know what we need. And amassing stuff is premature when we don't have a place to store it.
I am enormously grateful to everyone who has shared concern, made a donation, opened their closet, home or kitchen to anyone or everyone displaced.