It’s been a rough week, one full of losses. First, on Election Day, there are always losses, no matter which party you prefer. Then on Wednesday, my community was stunned when thirteen lives were lost in the Thousand Oaks shooting. We stumbled about our day on Thursday, trying to make sense of the tragedy, but how can you? Why would anyone want to kill another person, much less 12?
I’ve been at a loss for words, figuratively and literally. My #NaNoWriMo count stalled after day 7 and here’s why.
Upon picking my kids up from school on Thursday, I noticed two smoke clouds, one to the north and one to the west. I learned that they were the Woolsey and Hill fires respectively. I was glued to Twitter for the entire afternoon, watching as the fires grew. The city issued a voluntary evacuation order. When my husband got home from work, I told him how anxious I was feeling and we decided to pack up a few things and head out of the neighborhood and to his office about 20 minutes away. We told the kids we were just going to grab some pizza and watch at movie at his office and that was the plan…until the mandatory evacuation came.
I’m so grateful that we’re safe. We’ve been so fortunate to have amazing friends to take in our family of five for the past four days. We have a place to sleep, to eat, to shower, to watch ALL the news, to play, and to relax. There have been a lot of highs and lows throughout those four days, like when we thought our home was in danger only to be assured that it was safe. So far, the closest the fires have come to our house is when they approached our neighborhood park.
Just to back up a bit, I want to tell you about my family’s experiences at this beautiful park. It’s got huge trees that shed leaves and pinecones during the fall and provide shade during the summer. An arbor covers the picnic table area and there are lots of things for kids to do, with a basketball court, baseball field, volleyball court, and two playgrounds.
It’s close enough that we can walk (or ride bikes or scooters or rollerblades). They kids know the way and they usually speed ahead of me until they reach a corner.
It’s where my kids reenact pictures on giant ladybugs.
It’s where E learned how to rollerblade and where she practiced her cartwheels.
It’s where M discovered his love of baseball.
It’s where S perfected her pumping skills and showed off her dribbling.
The park holds a lot of memories for us. So you can imagine our horror when we watched it burn on live TV.
My immediate reaction was fear for the houses nearby (including ours). Once it was clear the houses were safe, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss for this place where my family has played for the past three years. The kids, of course, were both sad and fascinated by the effects of the fire.
But this is just a park. I’ve been thinking about my friends who have lost homes in the Woolsey fire. When we were evacuating, E was worried about our house burning down and we told her, “They’re just things. Everything and everyone important is in this car.” And as much as it sounds okay, they aren’t just things.
Our homes are where we create our memories, where our kids learn to walk and tell senseless knock-knock jokes at the dinner table. Home is where we hide when the world is too cruel, where we can be our true selves. It’s where we keep our treasured things. Since we’ve evacuated our kids have only complained about one thing they missed. In E’s case, it was a stuffed animal, while M missed his Hot Wheels cars. S just wanted one of the yogurt drinks we had bought at the store (and will have to dump as soon as we get back to the house).
At this point in time, almost 7,000 homes or structures have been destroyed by fires in the state of California–since Thursday. Altogether, more than 30 people have died and a few hundred are unaccounted for. Certainly, the Hill and Woolsey fires pale in comparison to the Camp fire in Northern California, and with things as bad as they are down here, I can’t imagine how dire the situation is up north. I’m so grateful for all of the first responders who are risking their lives to save ours!
One measly park is nothing compared to losing a home or a loved one. While homes and playgrounds can be rebuilt, those who perished in the fires can’t be replaced. But the memories of these places and people will never be forgotten.
We’re not out of the woods yet, so to speak. With more high wind warnings for the next two days, there’s still a chance of the fire spreading to our neighborhood. Even if it doesn’t, it’s unlikely we’ll be back in our house until the middle of the week. And then the real work begins to make the house livable again. Because that’s what life’s all about–living and making memories along the way.