To Leave it or Not to Leave it?
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Driving out of the ER, my son and I saw the hillside ablaze. The broken collar bone was momentarily forgotten as we marveled at the flames dancing above the trees. Home. We needed to get home.

My husband and I walked through our house, talking about what to take if we were called to evacuate from the approaching fire. I put a few things in an empty basket: the journals I keep for the kids, some canisters of ink, boxes of unused checks. We then turned on the news and I tried to eat the dinner that had been cooked while we were busy in the X-ray room. What an unusual way to spend a Thursday evening.

I walked around the house again after swallowing a few last bites of pre-Advent chicken, peeking into closets, looking at the hundreds of books that lined our shelves. Funny. I wanted to just leave it all, and go; I tried to see what in all that stuff was actually important, but didn't see much.

But then I came to my senses! Yes, it would be sad not to have photos of the kids, but who wants to recreate an entire family's financial history? Who wants to spend endless hours on the phone with Verizon or Fidelity trying to explain that the account numbers were now lost and becoming compost? I quickly jotted down a list of important files and documents that needed to find their way to our trunks if we were to leave our little Santa Barbara abode.

We never did have to leave. Flying embers never neared our two enormous trees. But we learned the following day that many friends had lost their homes that Thursday night, that they didn't have a free moment to pack, how they had to leave beloved things behind, handmade quilts and furniture, baby pictures, old family mementos passed down. It made me feel spoiled at having so much--at not having to make those endless phone calls or discover that I really will miss my childhood teddy bear.

Here is the list my husband and I ended up making just in case. An odd mix of things, but isn't that how our lives go?

  • Camera, photos in office, photos in closet, laptops and chargers, icons on mantle and in dining room, purse, phones and chargers, jewelry box, mink coat (was my grandmas!), wool cape, yarn, hooks and needles, lock box, top box of files, binders in office, cooler, suitcases, medications, baby journals, bill box.

Meanwhile there are folks who need to talk, who need meals, who need support, and our own son with a broken collar bone. I hope to be there for them. My daughter and I are heading to the fire station with jars of homemade jam as soon as the roads reopen... those firefighters deserve so much more than jam for saving us from having to pack that trunk full of binders and files. For saving so many more homes than just our own.