On March 23, 2008 my life changed forever, but before I tell that story, I wanted to talk about what occurred in California. Since October 15, 2017, over 100, 000 Californians lost their homes from the wildfires that rampaged the state, according to the Los Angeles Times. Can you imagine being one of those people?
I recall that it was Maine Maple Sunday on March 23, 2008, and my parents left to visit some of the sugar camps in our area. In the small hours of the morning, my sister, Mandy, and her fiance, John, went to work. I was alone in our log cabin.
My dad spent twenty years of his life building our log home. He built it by himself with the pines my great grandfather planted on the adjacent hill from our house.
I gathered my dirty clothes and walked into my sister’s bedroom. Mandy’s black labrador pinscher mutt, Zoe, looked up at me from her place on the bed and wagged her docked tail. I flopped my clothes at the washer and crouched at the machine. I put my dad’s oil stained work clothes in the dryer and my clothes into the washer.
My sister saved Zoe from an abusive home. When I was in high school, Zoe and I played a lot together. In the wintertime, we climb the snow banks that hugged our home. Zoe would chase me around the snowbank and try to catch me. She would latch on onto my arm and as soon as I can feel her sharp teeth, I’d say, “Easy!” and she let go.
After I put my laundry in the washing machine, I popped in the movie The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love.
In 2007, I graduated high school. I lived with my parents, my sister and her fiance. I wanted to become an LGBT teen counselor. I had already submitted my application for Southern Maine Community College. I was going to study Behavioral Health and Human Services.
After the movie was done, I went to put my laundry in the dryer. I walked to the threshold of Mandy’’s bedroom and screamed. Zoe quickly got up and left to go upstairs. Atop of the dryer a bonfire touched the bedroom ceiling like a fat playful firesprite. I ran to get the phone and called 911.
A middle-aged lady answered and asked for my address. I told her my parents’ address. She asked me to repeat it. I told her my address again. After she hung up, I began repeating the address over and over like a mantra. I left through the front door to the porch without thinking.
Out on the porch, I lowered my right hand from my ear, but I still clutched the phone in my hand.
“Someone help, please!” I yelled. I didn’t know what I hoped to accomplish. My grandmother and aunt were the only people who lived close by.
I remembered Zoe and Cody. Cody was my sister’s gray tabby cat. He liked to sleep on my mom’s bed in the loft. I remember finding him sleeping up on the wood ceiling beams.
I walked back to the threshold to our house. I opened the storm door and pushed the front door with the palm of my hand. A puff of gray smoke bellowed out. I quickly backed off. I felt a rising anxiety as I imagined our dog and cat dead upstairs.
I didn’t know what to do other than scream. There was nothing that I could do. I was surrounded by woods. Time seemed to stretch on and on. As soon as I thought to look for a fire truck, there was a red car at the end of our long dirt driveway.
As I made my way to the red car, I felt dead inside.
A man stood beside the red car. When I got to him, he asked if there anyone else. I said no, but there were our pets. He murmured something, but I heard the word “gone.”
I know that I should have started crying, but I felt nothing. I couldn’t go back to the log home so I headed to my grandmother’s house.
As I walked down the dirt soft shoulder, I saw my parents’ car, my mom stone white as she glanced at me and then to the background. I was sure that there that the fire was visible now, popping out from the windows.
My mom was 52 and retired. She stayed at home and only went out with Dad. Her home was her castle where she expressed her varied tastes in crafts. She would sew, crochet, cross-stitch, and knit. Mom’s baskets would be everywhere in the house with piles of unfinished work overflowing. During one of her Midsomer Murders marathons, my mom would sit and cross-stitch while the stove fire would blaze.
My grandmother walked up to me. I fell down crying in her arms still clutching the home phone.
My family and I were not the only ones who has lost so much in one day. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, two California counties: Sonoma and Napa were hit the worst, which ranked up a $3.3 billion cleanup bill. After the house fire, it took us about 3 years to get our lives back together and we had a community to help us rebuild. Can you imagine 100,00 people trying to rebuild their lives?