“They lost everything in a fire.”

“But they’re all right, right?”

“Depends on how you look at it.”

This could be a conversation between two people discussing any victim of the recent fire that destroyed Paradise, CA, in a quick, intensely hot swoosh. My high school English teacher, her husband and their daughter and son-in-law are some of the victims. Yes, they escaped physically unharmed, but what about emotionally. Imagine the fear and feelings of helplessness they experienced at the time and now they are living in temporary digs wondering how long it will take to rebuild or even if they can. And what about their things, all gone. Things can be replaced, or can they.

I’ve been thinking about my special “things” that could not be replaced. I have my children’s baby teeth and their baby books. In the kitchen there is a cook book with my long deceased mother’s handwriting in it. I have a wooden rabbit that belonged to my father, also deceased. I have some letters that my father wrote to me while I lived abroad in the ’70s. There is a manuscript of the novel I’ve written and a flash drive also, but both in the house. There is a collection of stuffed Panda bears that belonged to my husband’s daughter who is also deceased. And my jewelry box, countless pieces bought on many different trips all with a grand memory attached. The memories are there, but wouldn’t be as prevalent as when I pick up a certain necklace or pair of earrings. You can’t replace those types of “things” after a fire.

I’ve also been thinking of the cost of replacement. One goes shopping for some new underwear, a pair of jeans, a couple of  blouses and a jacket and you’ve quickly spent between two and three hundred dollars, or more. If your safe melted in the fire as Sue and Randy’s did, then your stash of cash is gone along with the necklace your grandmother gave you when you were born. I can’t fathom what it would cost to replace all my clothes, house wares, furniture, pictures, sewing studio with six machines and hundreds of yards of fabrics I had to have. Even the toothbrush, make-up and medications are gone. Now add Passports, house deeds, birth certificates, car titles and your wedding album to the list. Official papers can be replaced, and maybe your family can reproduce some of the wedding photos, but what a hassle.

So, did my friends escape the fire unharmed? I don’t think so. I wish them well. In an effort to make their lives seem a little more normal I am sending my teacher a letter with my memories of her and a warm quilt (pictured above) to give her some comfort. It’s the least I can do.