Sparking a Memory


The fires and devistation in Southern California keep sparking a memory. Vividly I remember sitting in our family room four years ago next January laughing and drinking champagne with our youngest daughter and her fiance'. We were tasting different brands trying to decide which one to have at their wedding reception in March. We were have a good time until the phone rang. The phone call changed the mood entirely.

It was my mother calling from Arkansas to tell me their house had burned to the ground. They managed to save themselves, the dog, and the van. My mother had grabbed her purse, but my father's billfold was in his office space and all else was lost. They never did determine what caused the fire. It had been a very windy day and they had a fire going in the wood-burning fireplace. The chimney had been cleaned before winter started, so that should not have created a problem. The only thing the fire chief speculated was the high wind had blown sparks back down the chimney and somehow ignited in the attic space.

In the time it took them to realize there was smoke and get out, the house was engulfed. The all volunteer fire department didn't take very long to get there, but they had no chance against the wind. My parents lived on a 500 acre piece of woodland and the fire fighters spent most of the day and through the night just trying to keep it from starting the woods on fire.

When my mother called it took awhile for it to sink in just what had happened. I thought I'd heard her wrong at first, it seemed the last thing from my mind. My father had just been home a day from the hospital after having his second hip replacement surgery that year, and I was afraid she was calling to tell me something bad had happened with him. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the news to be that.

Time has passed and they've moved back north to the area they'd left when they retired. Their friends are still here and are glad to have them back. Selfishly, I, as an only child, am glad to have them closer… for the inevitable will come some day and it will be easier for me to help. They gradually have rebuilt their lives… and accumulated more things to replace all the things they lost. I was able to give them pictures and even re-produced a cross-stitch I'd made them originally that hung in the old house. Still? I know it took years off their lives. Especially my dad. It took a lot from my dad. He's changed since the fire.

I know there are some of you who are near these fires. I'm sure there will be years of clean up and restoration. I am positive there will be lives changed forever. I hope I didn't sound too callous on my last post, when talking about the animals. My heart does go out to them… to you… whoever you are.

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Middle-aged. Anti-social. Mom. Grandma. Town-raised farmer's wife. Iowan. Want more? Come read the blogs.

11 thoughts on “Sparking a Memory”

  1. Fires are so scary. I remember my uncle and aunt had a trailer burn to the ground right after they’d been married. It was shocking how quickly things turn.

    Let’s pray for that every is safe…


  2. I can relate to this post, with my mom’s house burning down last year at someone else’s hand. What’s really sad is all the personal stuff she lost, particularly anything that my step-dad gave her since he passed away two years prior. She’s even purchasing new jewelry that is like some of the stuff he gave her.

  3. Coming from a family of firemenm my heart certainly goes out to Southern California. My parents own home burned down many years ago while they were at the grocery store. Unfortunately their pets did not survive the blaze nor did any of their belongings. Response time by the fire department was very good beacause my Father was the Fire Chief at the time, but there was nothing that could be done to save the house.

  4. Such sad memories, Sue. I don’t think anyone can understand how devastating something like that can be, unless they have been touched by it, in some personal way.

    I would imagine that it did adversely affect them in so many ways. There are some things which just cannot be replaced, and I’m sure that one experiences such a feeling of loss, very much like the death of a loved one.

  5. there’s nothing like a fire. My friends who have gone through that say it’s the worst thing in the world that can happen to you in terms of jarring your world… Your sense of self, home, and what you connect yourself to is gone. Many of them told me that they felt like they didn’t know who they were anymore after losing all of their things and their home. I can only imagine…

    I am so sorry to hear that about your parents. I have friends in the LA area that I contacted earlier this week, and he was fine, but since then, I have not heard from him. I am getting worried.

  6. I didn’t work that many fires in my time with Victim Services, but every one of the ones I did work was started by a child. That shocked me.

    Fire is scary. It like a living thing.

  7. Fire is one of the few things in this world that scares me. A couple of years ago a neighbor’s house burned down.. While it was a little interesting to see the firemen in action, it was horrifying. It was a really dry year and I was terrified that it would spread. I was very glad that they were so quick, but also sad for the neighbor. They told my husband later that it was due to a pillar candle that had fallen over on a loveseat. The wife decided it would be a better to just push the loveseat outside and when she did the entire house just went up in no time flat. Very scary.

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