On Thursday, it was snowing here rather hard. It was a wintery kind of day, heavy on bluster and wind, the kind of day that shows you where your house isn’t as well sealed as it could be. I usually blog sitting here at the kitchen table, and that’s where I was for the bulk of the morning. Xander and Nicholas are off for spring break (great week for it, with temperatures in the 40s), and they built us a fire, always welcome on days like that. Because our wood is wet (we stack it outside our back door, and it gets dripped on), we often bring it in and stack it to dry by the wood stove where the fire is. Sometimes, because we are not too bright, we stack it ON the wood stove. And that’s what the boys did.
In about fifteen minutes, there began to be smoke from the wood, which had dried and begun to crisp. I was in the grip of the muse, and though I smelled it, I didn’t look up to see what was going on (the wood smells as it dries, and I thought that’s what it was). Fortunately, Jeanette was home and came downstairs at the correct moment to ask what the ()%*#(&^ was going on. She got the wood off the stove, where some of it had turned black and one small part of one board had begun to glow. Seriously, ten seconds later we could easily have had combustion.
I learned several things from this. First, we don’t have a fire extinguisher handy, a thing that will be remedied today. We have one in each of the cars, but none here in the house where the fires are.
Second, that we need to have a discussion with the children about fire safety.
Third, that there is almost nothing in this house that I would be very sad about losing.
That last one really got me.
I thought about what would have happened if the boards had gone up in flames. There’s a lot of combustible stuff right there, and no way could we have stopped it from conflagrating the entire house. We would have had one, maybe two minutes to get people and things out before the place was an inferno. So what would I have done?
Well, first, the people. That one’s not that hard. We do usually know where most of the people are, and we have fairly regular discussions about how to get out of the house and what to take with you. We have ladders upstairs for escape that way if the stairs are blocked. The kids all know that you take heavy clothes and good shoes, though we know they’ll never be able to find them. I felt pretty good about that part.
But then, what would I take?
I would take my laptop. This thing is half my life, it seems like. It has hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of data on it in client files, plus a large amount of old writing that I’ve done, things like novels and short stories and all kinds of things that would pain me to lose. Simultaneously, I would grab the external hard drive currently attached to the DIMEPOD in the computer room. That perhaps ought to be first – it has on it photos and other family memorabilia from the last twenty years. To lose that would be criminal. So that has to come.
See, that’s where the problem started (and the realization, too). Oh, there are things in this house. Twenty years’ worth of married junk, times however many children we have, times their lifespan. Pictures on the walls – but all of those are scanned onto the Family Drive – books – but almost all of those are easily replaced – and old journals and things – which we probably should GET scanned onto the Family Drive, but which we don’t read now so what good are they doing us? There is some original artwork, some of which is precious and dear to me, and there is my chess set collection, which is down in the crawlspace and might survive, and a quilt my sister made for us that I love. None of the furniture matters. Clothes? Please. As I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that one of the most important things in the house was my tomato seedlings, and those can always be got at the local nursery if necessary.
And there really was not. anything. else.
So what the bleep is all this stuff doing in my house if I don’t care about it enough to save it from a fire? And I mean, I wouldn’t go back and get any of it even if I had time. The kids would probably save the Wii, unless I could stop them. But what IS all this stuff? How did it get here? Why do I keep it?
Today is Saturday. I am planning to walk through my house with a big box. It could be a very interesting day.
P.S. There’s something else. Part of me actually wanted the house to burn down. It’s old-ish, and it has “quirks”, and no longer fits the way my family lives very well. We’re very well insured, for not very much money, thanks to Agent Heaton, my good friend from Main Street, so we’d get our house back, brand new, and better-configured, with a bigger fridge or two and a five-burner stove and a triple sink (do you know how many dishes ten people generate in the course of a day?), and a smallish room at the back of the garage with a deep sink and access to the back yard and skylights so my seedlings will grow. And a real tub in the master bedroom. And a tub in the kids’ bathroom. And and and.