One phone call I never expected to get was the one I got from my normally cool, collected, do-it-myself husband. The call that went like this "Cher! There is a fire in our house. Call the fire department." Verbatim. No extra (or possibly helpful and potentially calming) details, just the bare bones.
I had started my Monday morning January 20 the way I normally start Mondays - by stripping the bed and sorting the laundry. I almost never neglect the wash on Mondays, it is one of the ways I keep on top of the things that need keeping on top of. The first load in the machine is the bed linens. I did the other regular everyday things while that load ran through the cycle, changed the linens to the dryer, started another load in the washer, grabbed my list of errands and groceries for the week, and headed out the door to take care of business. The call came when I had been gone for about 45 minutes. Fortunately David was home working and due to his cool-head and penchant to do-it-himself, he extinguished the fire just as the fire trucks rolled up to our door. Two fire trucks and a police cruiser as well. Lots of huge firemen trudging through our house making sure all was as well as it could be.
So. This is another one of those experiences that remind me how little I know and how self-involved I tend to be. If I had heard that a friend or acquaintance had had a dryer-fire, I would likely have thought to myself "well, that stinks!", assumed that a new dryer was in the works, and probably little else. It sounds like such a little event. And in the scheme of events it really is little. But like a paper cut that stings every time you get your hand wet, it really is aggravating. We are coming up to 4 weeks pretty quick here and we are far from back to normal. We spent the first two weeks post-fire enjoying a staycation in a lovely bed and breakfast courtesy of our insurance company while two restoration contractors began the business of remediating the damage from the thick black repellently stinky smoke that filled our home. Every single soft item on our home (and I mean everything that was not nailed to the floor with the exception of the sofas) was removed to be cleaned off-site. The removal alone took a couple of days. All our electronics were removed to be cleaned. Then every hard surface, every book and picture, had to be wiped down. The laundry room has been gutted. The ceilings will be scraped and redone. The carpets have been cleaned. There have been four massive 'air scrubbers' exchanging the air in our house every 15 minutes night and day and still it smells of fire in here.
A week ago we got the first of our goods back. 223 bundles of hanging and I don't know how many boxes but lots!! I have spent hours every day in the meantime unpacking, cutting the id tags off each unique piece and trying to put things back where they live. It has been tedious in the extreme but I remind myself that I am so fortunate to have my home and my things. If David had not been home the chance is very great that by the time anyone on our quiet street even noticed there was a fire here, it would have been beyond too late. So I plod on, finding the odd treasure and of course the odd things that one keeps simply because it is easier than deciding what to do with them. Those things are set aside (now beautifully clean) to find new homes with someone else. In a few weeks I will have a rebuilt laundry room with new appliances and the stink of an electrical fire will (hopefully) be a memory.
There are a few lessons here. The first is easy to see - DON'T leave home (or go to bed) with any appliance running but especially not a washer, dryer, or dishwasher. The risk is simply not worth the convenience. Next lesson - know where the shut-offs are for said appliances and then make sure that you have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it.
But the most important lesson I have been reminded of again, is that it is not ever so real as when it has happened to you. It doesn't matter if it is small or large, life-changing or just a nuisance, I think I am not alone in my tendency to be too blind to the 'paper cuts' and disasters of those around me. It is far too easy to ask for understanding and tolerance, for support and comfort for what concerns me but deny those same needs to others because I haven't made the effort to get out of my skin and feel their worries, to understand why they feel stressed, to know that they need love and maybe more than just a little help. Our paper-cut-disaster has been really relatively painless - a big nuisance and a whole lot of work to be sure - but we have lost nothing that matters. We have our home and it will be beautiful and orderly again. Much of what was destroyed can be replaced and what cannot will not leave a hole in my life. We have one another and each precious member of our family. We have the opportunity to get up and work and learn and grow with each new day.
Can't say I won't be happy to get the rest of my stuff back - I am pretty tired of one pair of boots and the shoes I wear for my daily walks (hardly fashionable). First world problems. Small potatoes. At least I have shoes. I do like shoes though....