As the holiday season came to a close, my wife and I devoted our New Year’s Day to taking down the decorations inside our new house because it was too darn cold to take down the decorations outside our new house. It didn’t take that long since we didn’t put up as much as we had in years past. We were still getting used to our new environment and trying to overcome the memories of Christmas in our old home.
As most of my readers know, my wife and I lost our house in a fire this past June. We were on vacation at the time and arrived back home to a total loss. The next few weeks were a blur of finding a place to live and dealing with the insurance company, but everything worked out and we were able to start rebuilding.
As it happened, we had to be out of the Dressler home in Reynoldsville by Oct. 31st. Herb the contractor and his crew worked really hard to get us in by that date, so before Thanksgiving we were back at our old address but not at our old home.
The scenery outside the windows looked the same, but the inside was different. Our floor plan was close to the old home, but we made adjustments for the coming years, including moving the laundry room upstairs. The slight differences make for some confusing moments.
After three decades in a place, you can pretty much get to where you need to go blindfolded. Not so much in a new place. There were several nights where I almost walked into a wall because the bathroom had moved to the left about three feet. I still try to throw dirty clothes into the hall hamper, but that no longer exists, but I manage catch myself before I toss them in the guest bedroom.
Believe it or not, I never really learned which light switch controlled which light in my old home, but I was getting close. Now I have to start all over again. I’ve been thinking about getting a dozen Clappers and forgetting about switches.
This past Christmas season, however, taught me that it isn’t the big things that affect you the most after something like this – it’s the little things. We had tree ornaments that we collected in our 36 years of marriage that were gone, along with many other memory-invoking items.
My wife found it difficult to decorate the new home because, I think, she had a new canvas to work with. In the old home she knew what went where and why. It took her awhile to find her groove with this new place, if she even found it. I think it will take her several holiday seasons before she’s satisfied.
Still, it’s hard to grasp the reality we don’t have what we used to have. Case in point: when we took down our Christmas decorations, I began to organize everything in the basement while my wife put things back together upstairs with non-Christmas winter stuff. In my absent mindedness, I thought I would encourage her by saying, “It won’t be long and you’ll be able to put out your spring stuff.” She was quiet for a moment and said, “I don’t have any spring stuff.”
I don’t want this to sound like we are having a hard time getting back on our feet. Our insurance covered our needs. As we hoped, we were able to share what we received from the community with the responding fire companies and the American Red Cross. We have been blessed beyond measure.
There are moments, however, when you realize things will never be as they were, not because of the big stuff but because of the little stuff, little stuff that held big memories, that connected you with the events in a life that took shape over 35 years. As you held it or looked at it, you knew it happened.
I have been on this earth long enough to know how things work. As Arthur Miller once wrote, “...life is a casting off. It’s always that way.”
One day this new house will be the old house and the new stuff will be the old stuff and my kids will have to get rid of it, but when you think about it, it is love that makes a home, and the fire didn’t take that away. In fact, we still have lots of that to go around, so we’ll be fine.