This will be the first year we don't celebrate Christmas with a tree and presents. On December 5th, our home burned to the ground in the Thomas Fire. At 11 p.m. on December 4th, we evacuated. Flames were cresting the hill on the opposite side of the canyon behind our home. My husband and I spent that first night in our cars with the cats. With power out in the city, we could see the red line of the fire moving along the hills in the distance.We're all unharmed, but decided not to pressure ourselves by trying to force a holiday celebration.
Hoping to board the cats, we were at the veterinarian's when they opened at 8 a.m. The entire staff was amazing. They looked after the cats for five days, letting us come by to visit daily, and didn't charge us. The office manager even brought me several bags of clothes -- since I hadn't had time to grab much. (My ensemble of lime green bra, white tank top, pink sweater, khaki shorts, tie-dyed socks and hiking boots pretty much proved how difficult it is to pack up cats and clothes by flashlight.) I'm wearing one of her shirts now.
On Evac Day 2, a good friend helped us find and book a room. After three days there, our insurance company moved us to a Residence Inn -- where the cats could join us. The Inn only allows two cats per room, so we have two rooms, but it's working. We hope to soon be in long-term temporary housing.
We were able to walk into our neighborhood on Evac Day 3. We hadn't held out a lot of hope for our home's survival, but weren't prepared for what we saw. Most of the homes on our block were destroyed. We discovered -- to our surprise -- that two small metal sculptures survived the inferno at our house. Both are by the same artist -- who had created several pastels which used to hang on our walls. The sheer incongruity of an abstract figure rising up in celebration over the rubble was lost on us at first.
The sky's still filled with smoke and it's raining ash -- and we're a bit off-kilter-- but we're together and that's everything.
While this has been an event that will forever mark us, it has also shown us how wonderful people can be. The kindness of strangers (and yes, I realize I'm sounding dangerously close to Blanche Dubois in Streetcar Named Desire) has been overwhelming. And the bonds of friendship are what keep us afloat. Richard and I have been unlucky, yes, but we're still lucky in our friends.
In spite of our decision to skip Christmas this year, I do have a holiday giveaway. Before the fire struck, I signed up to take part in Long and Short Reviews' Winter Blogfest and giveaway. Check out their website to learn about a great array of books and writers. For a chance to win a copy of my YA adventure, PUNISHMENT SUMMER, visit Long and Short Review's website at:
Wishing you and yours time with friends and family, and a very happy new year.