Yesterday I finally spoke to my bff, Kathy, who had been evacuated from her home in Santa Rosa. Kathy’s family (two households), Steve’s aunt, who still hasn’t been able to return to her condo in the Fountaingrove neighborhood, cousins, and other friends—all either evacuated, or packed and ready to go. We’ve been watching and worrying, trying not to imagine the worst, but knowing that even the best case is heartbreaking.
Kathy recounted the 1:00 a.m alert, seeing the glow of the fire behind her neighborhood, and another one across the valley, behind Alison’s home. Calling Ali, driving away, turning around to retrieve her elderly neighbor, meeting up to spend the night together in the Costco parking lot, joined by Sami’s friend who lost his home. Staying in San Rafael, running into friends in the elevators, returning see they still had homes, leaving again to wait, coming back, sleeping in their clothes, just in case, staying packed.
I asked her, “What did you take?”
Kathy is sentimental, very creative and incredibly thoughtful. I’ve known her since I was 16. I introduced her to her husband, when we were all in college and our daughters are all exactly the same age. I have spent many, many hours in Kathy’s home and yard, drinking wine and working out the puzzle of life, and visa versa. Kathy is the clean one, who has a place for everything. I am the one who, if her home were broken into and ransacked, might not be able to tell the difference. Kathy saves things, makes things, and knows where everything is. I save stuff, make stuff, and have no clue where anything is. We both treasure home, and the memories we’ve made.
She said the first time out, she didn’t take anything. The second time, she was practical, and grabbed some makeup, a change of clothing, a few papers, and filled a shopping bag with the photos on the mantel and a few treasures, plus two bracelets she bought in Sedona. Forty years and “home” fit into a shopping bag. She said she knew her grandbabies’ photos were digital and I could backfill with pictures of her girls. I asked Alison (mama of the babies) what she took, and her response was similar. First time out, laptop. Second time, baby hospital bracelets and ultrasound pix, her husband’s military awards and her great grandmother’s ring.
All night, I’ve been thinking about what I would take. What parts of my home would fit into a shopping bag?
First time out, I would hope I could grab my laptop and phone (photos, contact info, all of my writing). But if I had a half hour, what else would I want to save? What choices would I make to be able to remember home and make a new one? For someone who owns nine world globes, a collection of girl super hero dolls, more than one overflowing pile of books, I surprised myself.
My jewelry box, not that my jewelry is valuable, but my mom has given Kate and Alex her family heirlooms and they’re with me for now. A spittoon from Steve’s great grandparents (it’s lovely, really), my heart shaped rocks, four small Mexican masks that have been in our entry for 24 years, the quilts my mom made us, some travel journals, a few of Steve’s paintings, the framed drawings Kate and Alex did of me for Mother’s Day, years ago, and maybe a coffee mug or three. Advil, underwear, shoes, an extra pair of yoga pants. Financial, medical, insurance documents.
That’s it. One (kind of big) shopping bag. Which makes me wonder why I need a two-story house, off site studio, overflowing garage, and an upcoming remodel for all my stuff.
The fires aren’t out, and the danger isn’t over. People and homes are still lost, and it will take years for this beautiful area to recover. I’ve been inspired by my friends’ strength and attitude. I asked Kathy, “Isn’t it kind of neat to know that when the worst happens, your best self showed up?” She admitted that was a good thing, but was quick to point out that the best of everyone has shown up. That helps, doesn’t it?
Also, I’m packing my earthquake kit, because, Mother Nature seems to be really annoyed with us right now, and is working very hard to get our attention.