You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘mystery’ category.

It’s a cold, quiet, snowy day today. I had a few good cries over the weekend over Roscoe, over Dusty, and over the reality of thinking “Oh, I have one of those,” followed seconds later by, “No, it burned up”. On some days, depending on what I’m doing or where my untethered thoughts drift, that last thought sequence can happen a dozen times a day. It makes me pretty sad when it does.

Yesterday was a work holiday and I ventured into in the quasi-big city for groceries. A stop at a thrift store dropped the blessing of a baker’s dozen of books by one of my favorite authors, P.G. Wodehouse. My well-curated collection was lost in the fire, and these were even the same editions. I felt like I was looking at my own now-gone shelves. Granted, I have a long way to go to build back my library of his work, but this gift made me feel that my angels were with me.

When my angels are with me, one of two things happen. If it’s at night, I see twinkling blue lights in front of me. I think of it as the “Blue Light Special”. The night of December 30, when I went to bed, there were so many of them that I was reminded of the fireflies in the backyard on summer nights when I was young. During the day, the angels let me know they’re with me by a tingling on my scalp and a warm gentle feel of an arm around my shoulder, or a brush of a kiss on my cheek. All comforts that make my heart ache with joy and gratitude. I have not forgotten them and it’s so nice to know that they have not forgotten me.

I was born only a few miles from the house I grew up in, the house my parents lived in my whole adult life, the house in which my Father died. As I’ve said, it’s what I truly thought of as home. My Mother sold it about 10 months before she died, about 5 months after my Father died.

I wanted that sense of security for K. I could see the cozy house’s lights from the room in hospital where K was born. It was always her home, even after I moved to the Cottage and then to the Bungalow. Even after she went 1,000 miles away to college, and then 500 miles away to start her grown-up life.

I have often talked with her about the concept of home. Now my heart breaks that she has suffered this loss of home as a place, a concept, and a heart, just as I have now done twice. She’s too young for this loss.

Several sisters of my heart were raised differently from me, being from military families. They moved often and far. One has wondered why I left so many things I treasured in the cozy house. She was not attached to much and was ready to pick up and move when the family needed to, never leaving anything behind. Another has found herself more attached to things since she had to pick up stakes so often.

My Mother was the child of a somewhat nomadic father, and she loved moving. She loved the new towns, new schools, new people. Her lack of attachment to things, as I discussed yesterday, was also most obvious to me by the fact that she sold her wedding dress. She didn’t think about the daughter she might have someday who might want it. She did save a silk chiffon scarf that she wore on her wedding day, that I wore on mine, that is now ashes.

My Father moved, but most of it was for education. Kentucky, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, and finally, North Carolina, where my childhood house was the first and only house he bought. But despite all those moves, he had a family home to go back to in West Virginia, where his Mother was born and lived until she could no longer live alone, which was in her mid-80s. While we never discussed it, I think he had the same concept of home that I did.

Of course, all of this is completely contradictory to the me that I know that wants to travel until the end of my days and beyond. Or is it? Does my wandering soul just need to know that there is a home, a sanctuary to return to? I welcome your comments here. They help deepen my thoughts about this topic that has been a lifelong wonderment.

A house that was a half-time home two decades ago.

How many times have I sat with grief before? I have lost count. But before, it has been grief for people, for relationships, and for the futures that are lost along with them. The number of people that I have lost is severely disproportionate to my years. Unfortunately and mysteriously, K seems to be following a similar pattern in her quarter-century life.

But I’ve never lost something so tangible and with so many intricacies and layers. Something that was primarily composed of things, and that was a thing itself. I’ve lost gloves and iPods and earrings. I’ve broken favorite coffee mugs and Christmas ornaments. I’ve lost fuzzy pink sweaters and high heeled booties. Reading glasses and birth control pills (!). But this loss and the grief of it is so very different. While, yes, we have lost things (I cannot think of the loss of Roscoe and Dusty right now), we have lost more than that. I am grieving the loss of what my heart felt was a surety, a safe place, a place that would always be there if I needed it. The very definition of home.

Having a place become home takes a long time. For me, it takes a very long time. I was in the Bungalow for ten years. It felt much like home, like the place I yearned for after a long day, but my feelings were more centered around attachment than safety. I’m not sure that makes sense, yet I know it to be so. The cozy house was mine for 30 years. It had earned its place as home.

When I’ve longed for home, I’ve longed for the house I grew up in, which my Mother sold before she passed. I know it’s not the house itself that I yearn for as much as the feeling of safety and being cared for, of someone making everything better so I didn’t have to do or think about hard, sad, bad things. The longing for being a child again. I’m still salty about my mom selling the house, and saltier still about the buyer who cut down all the beautiful old pecan trees in the front and backyards. This loss — my loss — of the cozy house has forced me to confront the feelings of losing my childhood sanctuary. I have now lost yet another sanctuary. Perhaps sanctuaries are temporary. Perhaps they are illusions.

So I hole up in the Retreat, beneath blankets and blue skies. I tell the cozy house’s story to the man who comes to plow the driveway. I bake brownies because no Southerner allows a loss to go unmarked by home-baked goods. I sit side by side with my grief, watching it turn and transform in the changing light behind my eyes. My friend, my enemy, my companion.

The cozy house.
Photo credit: Megan Williams

Fire and I have had a lifelong complicated relationship. Actually, it extends into a past life relationship, but that’s a little too woo-woo for me to get into just now.

Growing up, the fireplace was a focal point in my parent’s house. A cord of wood was dumped in the garage (which was never used as a garage) every year and my dad would stack it and chop it as needed. When it turned cold, we’d stack wood in the basement to avoid having to go outside to get it. Kindling came from the pecan trees, supplemented by newspaper, of which there was no shortage, since my dad took at least six papers. While we had a furnace – a big old scary roaring cast iron thing in the basement – my parents, being depression era children, always kept the house cold, using the fireplace as a major heat source.

We had a fire almost every night from Fall through Spring. Little me learned how to tell if it was smoking into the living room and point that out to my dad. Bigger me learned how to fix it when it was smoking. On cold mornings, I would scrape the ashes looking for some extra warmth from the coals like Cinderella. Scraping through the ashes of the cozy house, even 10 days after the fire, I found warm spots that reminded me of my Cinderella mornings.

E-Bro melted the soles of numerous pairs of shoes reading on the floor in front of the fireplace. One summer morning, when I was very small, my parents tucked him just a tiny bit up the chimney in a Santa Claus costume and surprised me with Santa’s visit. I still remember how thrilled I felt.

The chimney caught fire once and the fire department came to put it out. I was always nervous when we cleaned out the chimney after that. One day, after a night where the fire didn’t draw well, my sixth grade English teacher took me aside and asked me kindly if my home had caught fire because my hair smelled so much like smoke.

In college in Boston, I made the decision to leave as I stood at my window and watched the building across the street from my brownstone dorm go up in violent flames, set alit by an arsonist terrorizing the area. As it burned, I thought, “I am too young for this.”

In college in Boulder, I lived on the top back room of a rooming house that was otherwise occupied by six guys of questionable character in their 30s. One morning, after being awake for 48 hours between work and disasterous midterms, I was finally sleeping when someone pounded on my door. I was charming and cursed at them and told them to go away. This person said, in exactly the tone you would expect, “Well, EXCUSE ME, but your house is on fire and I THOUGHT YOU’D LIKE TO KNOW.” Which it was. I struggled into my red and white striped robe, stumbled barefoot down the stairs past the quickly charring door of the room on fire, just missing the explosion of the front window. Someone gave me a pair of tennis shoes since I was barefoot on this November morning. Turns out one of my fellow tenants went to the Mental Health Center and told them he’d just set his room on fire and there were people sleeping in the house. The Fire Department got the fire under control, though that tenant’s room was completely destroyed. The firefighters had kicked in my unlocked door and checked to be sure the fire hadn’t breached the walls. I didn’t have much, but everything I owned smelled like smoke for weeks. I moved my bed into the empty attic and left my clothes outside in the cold to air them.

After college, still in Boulder, ex-Pat and I watched smoke and ash creep towards our North Boulder apartment over Mt. Sanitas. It was nerve wracking. I went through a small phase of insanity in which I’d chase wildfires when I knew they were burning in the hills. That stopped one day when my truck got stuck and I watched a ridge across from me burn, the fire’s fingers greedily creeping toward me. It was a miracle that I got myself unstuck. I was in the application process to become a wildfire fighter when I broke my foot, dashing that goal.

In the cozy house in Superior, the fireplace took up half of the living room wall. It was romantic at times, comforting at times, frustrating at times. I learned how to build a good fire. I chopped wood without losing any appendages. There was always a fire in the fireplace on Christmas morning, just like we had in my parents’ house. Ironic that the chimney is the only thing left standing. The fireplace felt like the heart of the house.

Living in the Cottage, I watched the Four Mile fire consume familiar hillsides. I watched the Colorado Springs fire on TV in the Bungalow and have never seen anything that more closely resembled what I’d imagine Hell to look like.

Until now. I still can’t visualize what the hell of this fire looked like but I can see the hell it has left behind. The loss and heartbreak that it has created are our own personal little hells.

I worry that the Retreat might be subject to fire. It’s in the woods, in the mountains, almost to be expected. MKL is wise to tell me not to think of it so I don’t draw it to us. But I feel like fire has licked at my heels my whole life. It just hasn’t gotten me yet. I really hope it’s done trying.

The sifters came yesterday, a lovely group of Baptist volunteers from northern Texas. They prayed before getting started, which was nice, and diligently worked for a few hours, focusing on the areas where I thought they’d most likely find things. Sadly, they came up disappointingly short, being unable to find anything from my trunks or any remnants of the two antique rifles from ex-Pat’s family. I had no expectations for the search, only faint hope.

They found some very charred items from a silver tray that sat on one of the dressers, but no trace of the tray itself. They found the lid to a small porcelain dish that I think came from my grandmother. They found two china pomanders from my Mother that had been in K’s dresser drawers. One of the sifters shouted “Hold up your hands!” and threw one to me from about 20 feet away. Which I caught. Had I not caught it and had it broken, I’m pretty sure I’d have been pissed. I know one of the other volunteers (a lady) scolded him for taking the risk of the toss.

They also found the remnants of several pairs of handcuffs. Not something I felt compelled to explain. Though I did feel like they prayed extra hard for me once they finished sifting.

But their most precious find was a ring. A single stone with three smaller stones on each side. The stone looks blue to me in most lights, though MKL saw hints of pink and purple. The thing is…..I don’t know this ring. I had a costume ring when I was little that had a blue solitaire but no other stones. It burned up in the trunks. So this is not that ring. Had it been a diamond or even glass, it wouldn’t have survived the heat.

Curiously, it fits the third finger of my left hand perfectly. Like it was made for me. Ex-Pat only gave me one ring – my engagement/wedding ring, which I have. I have my great grandmother’s and grandmother’s engagement rings. I have my Mother’s wedding band. It is none of those. My Dad gave me an amethyst ring – it’s not that. It is truly a ring from the fire. Just as the Bungalow insisted that I put a ring on it before I moved out (which I did, and which the tenants have left hanging on its ceiling hook), I think my cozy first house has given me a ring to forever tie us together, to confirm our commitment even in its passing. So for now, I’m wearing it, above my current durable silicone wedding band, until I feel like I don’t need to anymore, which will happen.

I know that sounds a little crazy. I think I’m just a little crazier than usual these days.

November 2022
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Archives

Make your life a little sweeter every day! Sign up for an email subscription to Seasweetie.

Join 2,474 other followers
wordpress stats
plugin
%d bloggers like this: