The Closing of the Door: A Marine Wife's Story


Sly (Marine wife, reader, snark mistress, graphics guru, comedienne, frequent commenter and all-around-genius) recalls the torment of the California fires. Today's must-read:

The sound of the closing door echoed once, slightly, as I walked through the garage, got into my Durango and drove out the gate into an orange fog of smoke that was at once familiar, yet, still, strangely surreal. The closing of the door.

Once a sound of safety and security all day or night. Doors closed and locked before heading out to run errands? Yep. Good. No one can get in to take our stuff. I am secure in the knowledge that everything will still be there when I come back. Doors locked before heading to bed? Yep. Good. No one can get in to harm my family or home. Our stuff will still be here in the morning when I get up. While the average Joe-Blow Burglar does stand to make limited monetary gains off of our stuff, these things - our *stuff* - hold far greater value to me, MH and "She-Who-Has-No-Off-Button". Our *stuff* is who we are. It's a part of our home, and it is a part of the energy of our family. And this time the closing of the door was not a sign of security. This time, that closed door does nothing to save our house, our *stuff*. Our home. Nothing can do that when a fire that has just consumed 20,000 acres in the last three hours is aimed at your house. No. door. in. the. world. This I know from personal experience having seen firestorms up-close and personal in my firefighting days. No, this time, the closing of that door held the potential for sealing the fate of all that we had left behind. This time I might not come back to find our home still *there*. The closing of the door. Echoes in my mind as I drive down the mountain road that leads from my house to the freeway. And I pray that I will see my home again.How do you choose which to take and which to leave behind? Certain things are obvious and barely cross your mind before they have been scooped up into a box to be shuttled out to the back of a car: pets, computers, important documents that cannot be obtained elsewhere (insurance policies can be downloaded from the company websites, but marriage and birth certificates are more difficult to replace), kid and pet shot records (thx, Semper Fi Wife, I would have forgotten that one that day), certain mementos that have become an important part in your family's energy.....these things go quickly out to the safety of the car. Then what? There really isn't that much time left before you need to be gone from this place. How do pick and choose which picture, statue, souvenir holds more importance over the others? Your most prized and cherished have already been accounted for, but those that remain on the walls and shelves mean, collectively, as much to you or else you would not expend the energy packing and unpacking them with each PCS move just so you can continue dusting them weekly. (Or, as is the case at my house, right before company comes over. A house isn't a home until you can write "I love you" in the dust. I just ask that you don't date it.) So, how, in just a few hours of time, do you assess varying degrees of worth to all that you own in order to determine that which goes and that which stays? The sound of the closing door. Echoes in my mind as I drive out of the orange haze of smoke into clear blue skies. And I pray that I will see my home again. We have our four dogs in the back of MH's truck with the canopy from his old truck attached. (The bed of his new truck is considerably shorter than the old one, so we had to make a wooden tailgate extender to fill in the extra space. Looks funky, but it works, and the dogs have more space to ping-pong around inside when they won't lie down and enjoy the ride.) The back of MH's cab is filled with the computers, his military gear and my brand new chainsaw (It hadn't even gotten dirty yet! And besides, there might be a tree down across the road that we might need to cut through....yeah, yeah, that's the ticket!). His floorboard has the cat box with Smedley, the beta fish, nestled in clean litter to steady his ride and catch any spilled water. (Again, thx, Carrie. You were a regular Norman Einstein that day.) In my Durango, "She-Who-Has-No-Off-Button" is arguing with Shadow, our polydactyl cat, who is not enjoying going from having the run of our two-story house to a very small cat crate (meow......"Shadow stop."............Meow..........."Shadow Stop."...........MEow............."SHADOW STOP!"................MEOW!..........."Mom, Shadow won't stop."..............meOW!!......"SHADOW!"......), coolers with drinks and food, and what could quite possibly be the only things we will own come nightfall. Ash blows off the road from our tires like so much water spray as the road bends around the mountainside opening a vista view of the valley below and the surrounding hills. Off to the northeast I can see columns from the fire threatening our home. On the hillsides to the north are creeping lines of flame, the edges of the other fire we had been keeping our eyes on for the past two days. A fire that had moved opposite our direction, but had left enough behind for the fire edge to continue creeping up the hillsides against the wind toward the columns to the east. The closing of the door. Is the last thing I hear as I fall asleep atop a hurriedly-purchased air mattress on the floor of a friend's house that night. And I pray that I will see my home again. We all have our "If this happens, I'll do this." scenarios everyday emergencies. Not many people have an "If a fire or flood is about to wipe out my home, what do I save?" scenario. It's something most people don't think of as part of the many normal contingency plans they have in their lives. I have, to varying degrees of preparedness, simply because I have been witness to the aftermath, albeit from a non-owners perspective. However, nothing can prepare you for the chest-squeezing reality of making those choices until faced with them in the heat of the moment (so to speak) and having some sort of idea, beforehand, as to what should or should not/can and cannot go just might help keep away, somewhat, the echo of that closing door. Hopefully, in the wake of the Cedar Fires of 2003, Katrina, and now this "as-yet-unnamed" firestorm, perhaps more people will begin to place that scenario, at least somewhere, in their over-all contingency plans, as well. The closing of the door. Still echoes in my mind. And I am thankful I still have my home.

And so are we....

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