Trigger Warning: This post gets pretty dark related to my past experience with the Camp Fire and fears/trauma associated with that.
In my introductory post, I mentioned that my family and I lost our home to the Camp Fire last November. As the anniversary of this trauma approaches, I’m finding myself falling deeper into the pit of what was and what could have been.
I go down the mental path of what my life would be like if the fire never had happened. What would our finances look like? Would I be back at work full time yet, or still primarily stay-at-home with The Bean? Would my husband have finished the final details of the office he built for himself in the garage? Would I ever have discovered the joys of card making?
Most days, though, I go down a different mental pathway – what if we didn’t evacuate when we did?
On November 8th, I finally got into my car with The Bean, two of our three cats, and a random assortment of our belongings (enough to keep us entertained and clothed for a few days, which was the maximum amount of time I expected to be gone before we returned home) at 9:23 am. Just 40 minutes earlier, my mom arrived at the house to hold onto The Bean while I packed up the car. She experienced no abnormal traffic. By the time we left, it took nearly 30 minutes just to get off my street and onto the main drag out of town. It took another 2 hours after that to get down the hill (a trip that usually takes 20 minutes at most).
Little did we know at the time, as we hopped into our cars at 9:23 am, the house at the end of the cul-de-sac was already in flames.
I think about what would have happened if we hadn’t left when we did. I picture our home filling with smoke and flames at the doors and windows preventing us from leaving. I picture The Bean in his crib as flames engulf the walls around him. I picture us trying to drive out of town, getting stuck in traffic and having to abandon the car and run like friends of mine had to do. Then I wonder if I would have had the time to pull out the stroller and pop The Bean in it or if I would have had to hold him the whole time. Could I have saved the cats? Would I have had to let them out of their cages and to fend for themselves?
I think about what I would have taken had I known our house was going to be gone just hours later. We certainly wouldn’t have left with my mom’s car empty, we would have filled it with my grandma’s artwork that was on our walls. I would have taken my great-grandmother’s locket that was willed to me and the photo of my great-grandmother as a one-year-old wearing it in the early 1900’s.
Or would we? If we had known then what we know now, would we have just thrown The Bean and the cats into our cars and left immediately? Would we have been frozen in a panic, unable to make the simplest decision?
I don’t know. I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I don’t know what life would be like if this had never happened or if it had happened differently.
I just don’t know and I’m learning to be okay with that. The trouble is, it takes a while to learn.