I love the saying ‘you never really know until it happens to you’. I think I’ve heard poor folks on tv with all of their belongings torched or shredded by mother nature in the background, but this morning, I wake up with a new appreciation for that phrase and for the people I’ve heard speak them.
Yesterday, a sweet friend sent me a text message at work wondering where a particular county road was in relation to our new country home. I replied “1 mile west, why”…I waited for her next message which was “big fire”. I promptly got up from my desk at work and moved to the front window and looked west. All I could see was large billows of white plume smoke. My heart skipped a beat as I ran to my office to grab my purse and keys. Once in my car I desperately tried to call my husband whom I was sure was oblivious to the urgency near our house. He didn’t answer. I panicked more. I called my next door neighbor who is usually home on Friday afternoons. She answered but was unaware. That was of little ease to me. My friend texted me again a ‘tweet’ which she had received of road closings…I could’t go home my normal way, I’d have to trek down back roads. Another friend called, I could hear the panic in her voice – she lives just a few miles south of me but the fire was near her son’s school. I told her I was nearly to the house but smoke was thick and cattle had busted through their fences and were everywhere. We promised to keep each other posted. I rushed home, fought fierce winds to make a semblance of an effort to put out garden sprinklers around the house. Who cares that our rural water is the most expensive in the area – I could not, WOULD NOT move a third time in as many years. My cell phone was going crazy with calls and text messages. Some I chose to ignore, others, like when your mother calls, you answer – assure her you’re okay but need to go. You know that will never work – she calls back every few minutes.
My neighbor came home and helped to keep me calm. I couldn’t let him see how freaked out I was. My father in law showed up to help me as we watched hell unfurl in front of our eyes. We all prayed. I went inside the house to pray again. My husband hearing my phone calls from me and his mother decided to leave school early and came home. I was so thankful to see his pick up coming down the road. The guys decided to lay the swing set that was teetering on blowing away down. I rescued what I could from my garden (peat pots, decorations, etc. I was grateful my children weren’t home and were safe at that particular second. We got repeated updates on tv and by phone from friends on the fire’s movement. Then we lost power. I panicked again internally. Called my mother once again to tell her first hand updates and she shared with me what the news was reporting. We prayed for the wind to die down or at the very least not shift. If it shifted, all would certainly be lost.
My husband, trying not to let me know he was also panicked, came inside and suggested we pack a few things just in case. I was so impressed with him – he didn’t grab the big screen tvs or computers, not the video games or his golf clubs, but rather I turned to look and he had a bag of all of our wedding pictures and pictures of our children “get all the pictures” was his immediate but calm order. I did so diligently and then started searching for any other ‘irreplaceables’ you hear about people losing on tv. I had a big pile of stuff that could quickly fit into both cars when the time came. If it came. Our old neighborhood where we had just moved from 4 months ago was being forced to evacuate. I was thankful once again. We prayed for friends.
I received news by phone my daughters bus would not be running. I called the school and made the mad dash to get her and return home. I tried to explain what was going on so she too wouldn’t panic. She came home and I urged her to get a few things in case we had to spend the night at Neenee’s house. My seven-year old shocked me – seeing the bag of pictures her dad had packed, ran into her room and grabbed all of her own valuable pictures. Then gave me a rundown on her own ‘can’t live withouts’. She didn’t grab her shoe collection or barbies – but rather a babydoll given to her on her first birthday, a doll my mother had given to her for Christmas and a teddybear she had made for her babysister before she was born. I held back my tears and urged her to grab a few sets of clothes. She packed for herself and her sister. I love that girl!
By now I knew we couldn’t get back into town where my youngest was. I called family in town to go get her. At least I could breathe a little easier knowing where all my babies were and that they were safe. I packed my car – we were in the evacuation area now. We waited and prayed some more.
A few hours later, we were driving several miles out-of-the-way to pick up our 20 month old. We passed by neighbors whose home had been saved by both the grace of God and firemen. One of my dearest friends is a firemen. I thought of him on this day and prayed for his safety. The fires had spread to his jurisdiction. I have a new-found appreciation for the men and women who do this type of job – especially those who simply volunteer. At the end of the evening, we returned home. We had a home. We even had a yard. Our neighbors had also survived, not as successfully, barns and out structures were gone, but they and their homes were safe.
I prayed again before I went to bed to keep the fires at bay as we slept. Instead of getting up early this morning and working on my garden like I had planned all week, I have gone out to clean up. I’ve refitted my tepee’s I installed a few weeks ago. I pulled up a few plants that all that was left were the roots. I’m still searching for my compost bin. I have spent the better part of the morning putting pictures back up and unpacking bags and dusting the house. And I am grateful, thankful and blessed. The fire even relocated a few butterflies this morning. A welcomed site after a fearful day.