September 11: Remember the Love

Everyone who’s old enough to remember has a 9/11 story.  Mine is probably fairly typical of those of us with no personal connection to the events, and I’ve never written about it because it feels too much like trying to hop on the tragedy train in order to capitalize on the pageview potential.  But on this 15th anniversary I have some reflections I feel compelled to share.

My memories of that day are fragmented.  I was standing in my sunny yellow kitchen, chunky six-month-old William on my hip, when the phone rang–my husband, telling me to turn on the television.  A couple of hours later I picked him up at his downtown office and we went to lunch–at the top of the tallest building in Knoxville, which I remember feeling nervous about.

In the lobby of the building they were selling extra editions of the Knoxville News Sentinel, something so out of the ordinary that it was frightening.  We were all so desperate for news and there was no Twitter or Facebook to provide the instantaneous updates we’ve come to expect when a crisis strikes today.

On the elevator ride up to the 27th floor two men in business suits were discussing a mutual acquaintance whose son was in one of the towers.  At the time everyone still hoped he would be found alive.

I was worried when it was time to pick up the kids from school.  What did they know? What would I tell them?  Emily was ten and already knew.  Jake and Teddy were six and seven.  I remember at first just telling them that some bad people had done a very bad thing.  Because of my kids, I did not obsessively watch the television coverage for days as so many did.  I did not want them to see the towers falling.

The house we lived in back then was in a flight path.  We were accustomed to hearing noisy airplanes on their descent approach.  For the next few days, it was eerily quiet.  Once we heard an airplane and we all ran outside, terrified, to see a military plane overhead.  We were all on edge.  For some time after 9/11, loud noises made me jump.

Flash forward to the 10th anniversary, September 11, 2011, five years ago.  Six days out from our own personal tragedy, we were homeless–John and I and the little kids living with my sister Betsy, Emily away at college, Jake and Teddy staying with school friends, even our dog being farmed out to my other sister.  We had lost just about every material possession.  I didn’t have the emotional energy to think about 9/11.  I remember writing on Facebook that I felt guilty posting about our circumstances with all the posts about the anniversary reminding me that our tragedy was small by comparison.

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has become a fixture in our society, the way most of us keep in touch,  read news, express our feelings on matters both personal and political.  I can’t help but wonder how our experience of 9/11 would have been different if Facebook had existed back then.  I know that in the case of our September 2011 disaster Facebook was how we shared the news and received encouragement and help.  This year, on the 5th anniversary of the fire, I was looking forward to seeing those old posts in the “On This Day” feature that Facebook helpfully notifies me about first thing each morning.  I braced myself a little because those memories are painful, but recalling the support of friends, family, and acquaintances is uplifting.

Imagine my surprise, then, that even though five years ago I was posting about nothing but the fire and its aftermath for probably two weeks, my Facebook memories are a cheery collection of memes and articles and comments from every year but 2011.  Facebook has apparently decided without any input from me that the events of September 2011 are too traumatic and I couldn’t possibly want to revisit them.  Presumably if 9/11 had occurred in the Facebook era, it would also be scrubbed from everyone’s “On This Day” feature as something too dark to recall.

And while I am in awe of Facebook’s algorithms and appreciate their intent (as I know people in particular who have been blindsided by unexpected and unwanted visceral reminders of such events as the death of a child), I don’t WANT to forget September 2011.

I don’t particularly want to remember the sight of my burned down house and the destruction of all my treasured possessions, but I do want to remember the offers of shelter, the months of meals, the clothes and toys and gift cards, the love and the prayers.  I won’t forget them, not ever, but I also like seeing them on Facebook.  It’s worth seeing the pictures to see them, and the pictures provide the context for appreciating them.

Today my newsfeed is flooded with “We Remember” and “Never Forget” memes.  Some show the Twin Towers in ruins, some show them intact, bathed in heavenly light.  I’m sure when some people say they won’t forget they mean they won’t forget the terrorists, the hated enemies who committed this vile and cowardly attack, the outrage of being attacked on our own soil.  Our country has changed since 9/11 and I don’t think it has changed for the better.  We have become an angrier country, a frightened country, a deeply divided country.  That’s not the America I love and that’s not what I want to remember about 9/11.

What I want to remember are those who gave their lives in service to others, the way foreign countries rallied around us, the incredible feeling of unity as Americans.  And what struck me most at the time and remains with me now and what I want to remember most of all is the same thing I want to remember about September 2011:  the love–that when people were afraid they were going to die, the last thing they did if they could was call their spouses and parents and children, to say I love you just one last time.

september-11-remember-the-love

 

What Labor Day Means to Me

When I was a little girl, Labor Day meant watching Jerry Lewis, waiting to hear our names called out on the telethon for our donation.  It meant fried chicken and deviled eggs and buttermilk ice cream at my cousins’ house.  Later it became the day that my cousin and I got to appear on the local telethon to turn in the money we’d made at our annual backyard carnival.  Always it was the last real day of summer before the first full day of school.

Well, Jerry Lewis and his telethon are a thing of the past.  School started almost a month ago.  Some years we get together and eat burgers with the family on Labor Day; more often than not we take advantage of a Monday off to engage in actual LABOR–John and I will probably conduct a file review today.

What Labor Day will always be for me now, I imagine, is an anniversary.  Because on a Labor Day evening, five years ago, while we were thankfully absent from home, this happened:

fire 1

Every year in advance of this day I think about it, and contemplate writing some kind of profound post.  This year was no different, especially since it’s five years–kind of a significant anniversary–and September 5 and Labor Day once again coincide.

But despite thinking about it a few days ago and starting to plan out in my head what I would say, it took looking at my Facebook memories this morning (at a post I penned on the one-year anniversary) to remind me to sit down and write this today.

I just mentioned the anniversary to William and asked him what he thought about it and he said it doesn’t really matter to him anymore, that it was a long time ago and he didn’t lose anything important.

The events do have a certain remoteness, and I find myself looking back on them as though I were watching a documentary about something that happened to someone else.  It still seems so incredible that it happened at all.

I find myself paraphrasing Ronald Reagan and asking myself, “Are you better off now than you were five years ago?” The answer is an unqualified YES, even after all the losses.  The fact is that we were miserable in that house, that it was an exceptionally difficult time in our lives for a variety of reasons.  I don’t know what would have happened if the house had NOT burned down–obviously, the passage of five years would have brought changes although they would not have been the same changes–but it’s fairly certain at least that we would not have been living here, and living here has shaped our lives in interesting ways.

I’ve written before about the love and community we experienced and what a gift that was (and I remain wracked with guilt over my failure to finish all the thank you notes).  Does all the above mean that the fire was a blessing and part of God’s plan for our family?

Well, I don’t believe that.  Nor do I expect I will ever really “get over” it.  But I am grateful that our passage through the fire landed us where we are.

-Smoke your PAIN but keep the ASHES forever.-

My Grandfather’s Chair

Growing up, I spent every Friday night at my grandparents’ home, only a few blocks away from my own.  And we were often in and out of their house during the week as well.  Like as not, when I walked in, I’d find my grandfather sitting in the living room in his favorite chair.

My grandfather wasn’t what you’d call a smiley man.  His resting face was grim.  But he’d beam when I entered the room.  “Hi, Granddaughter!” he’d say.

Always I remember him in that chair, his ash tray stand to one side, the table with the reading lamp and the clock with the numbers that flipped on the other, his feet propped on the ottoman while he watched the nightly national news, or Lawrence Welk, or his soap operas, or as he read Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News and World Report.

Sometimes I’d watch t.v. too, with him cautioning me not to sit too close to the big cabinet television with the record player in one end of it. “You won’t be able to have children when you grow up,” he’d warn me.  Sometimes we’d play checkers on the ottoman.

Granddaddy died on September 24, 1980.  It was my first encounter with death.  I remember entering the house for the first time and dreading the sight of that empty chair.

Granddaddy's Chair 2

When my grandmother decided to relocate to a retirement community, my mother moved into the house, and the furniture Mima couldn’t take was given away.  My little sister got the chair.  I took the Naugahyde recliner from the basement (which I believe was the predecessor of the chair I’m writing about).  It didn’t last long–my kids have always been hard on furniture.

I love old things and I love family things, and over time I had filled my house with items from my grandparents’ house.  I was the one who took that cabinet t.v., even though it didn’t work anymore.  I had the oil pastel portraits of my grandmother and great-grandmother, the Seth Thomas clock that used to hang in the living room, and so many other treasures that I took because I appreciated them and had room for them.  When our house burned down almost five years ago, I lost it all.  And felt guilty for being such a poor steward of family heirlooms and memories.

We’ve lived for five years in a house furnished by the love of friends and family.  We’ve even added a few heirlooms from John’s grandmother’s house.  Over time, the furniture has become ours, safe and familiar.

My sister moved at Christmastime.  She decided she didn’t have room for Granddaddy’s chair and she asked me if I wanted it.  She knew how much it would mean to me to have it.  It found a new home in our family room.

I had visions of spending time sitting in it, but honestly it isn’t a very comfortable chair, at least not for me.  Emily sits in it sometimes, but more often than not it’s inhabited by cats.  Still, it makes me happy whenever I see it.

 

Graddaddy's Chair 1

Beneath the Ashes

“The fire which seems extinguished often slumbers beneath the ashes.”
Pierre Corneille
I’ve been debating all day whether to write this or not . . . but I’m still thinking about it so I guess I will go ahead.
I came across a blog post today in which the author described some “must have” items as (paraphrased) “things I’d save in a fire,” complete with little flames dancing inside the letters of the title.  And it bothered me.  I contemplated saying something to this person (whom I don’t know at all) but I didn’t want to make her feel bad.  And I felt like I was overreacting to her light-hearted post.  After all, I myself once wrote a post entitled “Kids’ Books You Can Read without Wanting to Shoot Yourself in the Head,” without ever thinking my jocularity might trigger some unpleasant feelings for those who love people who have actually shot themselves in the head (although not because of crappy kids’ books).
It just goes to show that you never really understand things until they happen to you.  I mean, even when you say to people, “That must be so terrible.  I’m so sorry,” you don’t really know what it’s like–whatever IT happens to be.  You know it sounds awful, but you don’t know how awful.
Yesterday William remarked, “We’ve had our house burn down and we’ve also been robbed.  Those are two unusual things and they both happened to us.”  And truthfully sometimes it’s almost unbelievable to me that such a terrible life-changing event did, in fact, happen to us.
It happened a little more than three years ago now, and the anniversary passed without comment.  I thought about it a few days before, thinking about writing something, and then forgot on the actual day, because life goes on and life is busy.
But that post today brought back some of those feelings of loss, as do the all-too-frequent occurrences of fire-as-plot-device in the books I read.  People’s homes burn to the ground, and everyone is all like, “Oh, how terrible!  You lost everything!” and then they put them up somewhere and plans are made to rebuild or something, and everyone just happily moves on about after a day of sad.
I bet you’ve had the conversation, haven’t you?  The one where someone asks you what one thing you would save if your house was burning down, and you say, “My kids,” and they say, “Your kids are safe.  Pick a thing.”  I know I had that conversation and I think I always said I would save the (supposedly fireproof) box that contained the negatives for all our photos. Which ironically WAS saved after the fact, but it wasn’t waterproof, so that was a bust.
So I started thinking today, if I could go back in time, and save five things from that house before it burned down, and those five things didn’t have to be my children, what would I save?  The pictures didn’t even make the list, frankly.
The first thing that came to mind–and it came to mind immediately–was the pack of love letters that John wrote to me, at first every day, then less frequently, during the first year we were dating.  I kept them in a drawer in my bedroom, and I used to read them over, which he couldn’t stand because he found it embarrassing.  I know I’m just as glad all the letters I wrote to him aren’t around to be read in the future!  But after the fire when I thought of those letters, that was the closest I came to crying over anything I’d lost.
The next item was easy too.  I had a little board book which I kept next to my bed.  It was called Global Babies and it was the only thing I had bought for the baby we lost.  I used to hold that book and cry and cry.  I could buy another copy, and maybe someday I will, but it won’t be the same.
After that I had to think.  I had a box of things that were Mima’s.  There was some jewelry I had given her.  And a scarf that still smelled like her.  The program from her funeral.  At our Victorian house I had made kind of a little shrine to her with those things.  I would have liked to save that box.
And I wish I could have saved the bag of newborn baby clothes, the one that would have had things that belonged to both me and John when we were babies, as well as special blankets our babies were wrapped in, and the outfit they wore home from the hospital, and the sweet little fluffy snowsuit they all wore.  I would like to have those to hand down one day.
I couldn’t settle on a fifth thing, although it would probably be something wedding-related . . . and I’m not going to spend any more mental or emotional energy on it because it’s kind of pointless anyway, isn’t it?  The fact is, had I been there, I would have run around screaming gathering children and cats and wouldn’t have thought for a second about saving anything, I’m sure.
And it’s only just occurred to me as I’ve been writing that I haven’t given a single thought to five things I would save if by some cruel twist of fate THIS house were to burn down.
entire house 2

What Dreams May Come

Last night I dreamt that my family and I were standing outside our house (only, because this was a dream, it wasn’t THIS house, but rather the one I lived in from age 11 until I got married).  We heard that scary cracking sound that lets you know that a big tree branch is about to fall and quickly we all ran for cover, and then watched as an entire giant tree fell directly on the house.  Instead of knocking a hole where it fell, though, it FLATTENED the entire house like a pancake.
I love analyzing dreams and this one is an interesting mixture of what had happened to me yesterday and deep psychological stuff.  William had been begging me to watch the extended edition of   The Fellowship of the Ring with him, and I obliged him last night.  When the Nazgul enter Bree, they knock over the gate, flattening the porter.  Later, Saruman orders the destruction of Isengard, and enormous trees are soon toppling all over the place.  Hence the visual images of the dream.
Lorelei and I were selling cookies at Walgreens yesterday with the Brownie troop leader and her daughter.  I mentioned something about our fire, and the little girl had questions, and we talked about it for awhile, especially about all the things we lost.  Finally, I’ve been reading a book in which the main character’s loss of her home due to fire is a pretty major plot device.
An aside:  You probably won’t have noticed this, but it is pretty damn amazing how often people’s houses burn down in books.  It’s also unbelievable, from one who’s been there, how the incident gets glossed over in the rest of whatever book as the romance or whatever made them need to burn down the house in the first place continues.  The loss (except if a death occurs, of course) gets talked about for a couple of sentences and then everyone moves on.
Since I’m still dreaming about houses being destroyed, I have obviously not moved on.  During our conversation yesterday, Lorelei’s troop leader shared with me that she knows someone who 30 years post fire can’t bear to talk about memorabilia or pictures.  It’s just too painful.  That’s not me, but I understand.
In last night’s dream, Lorelei and William were concerned about their things being destroyed.  I, on the other hand, just kept saying, “Thank God we did not go in the house.”  I don’t remember feeling upset about the destruction itself at all.  A few months ago I dreamed our house burned down.  My mother had to break the news to me and I was like, “Are you serious? Again?”  What I remember feeling in that dream was not loss but embarrassment because people would probably be tired of helping us out by now.
I’m still not sure whether my current detachment from/reluctance to acquire material possessions is positive or negative.  Maybe both?  Anyway, writing about it helps me work it all out, so I hope I’m not boring you yet.
fire do not crosswhat remains

About Those Crocs . . .

Before the fire, my closet was overflowing, mostly with clothes I couldn’t fit in anymore but couldn’t bear to get rid of.  Seriously, I had the dress I wore when I graduated from college in there.
Truth to tell, most of the things I actually wore lived in a laundry basket sitting in the middle of my bedroom.  And most of my day-to-day wardrobe was . . . frumpy.
Because we were in Baltimore for a funeral when the house burned down, the four or so outfits I retained (I had consciously packed very lightly!) included some of my dressier items along with the t-shirts and yoga pants I brought along for the nine-hour drive.   I made do with this minimalist wardrobe for some time, going out to buy only the barest of necessities.
As I’ve slowly bought things, I have consciously tried to go with somewhat nicer-looking items than those I was wearing before (as far as the clothes I wear to be seen in, that is.  If you want to know the truth, at the moment I am wearing an exceedingly frumpy but cozy oversized Wal-Mart sweatshirt.).  And when anything I’ve purchased has made me feel dowdy after I’ve worn it a few times, I’ve promptly given it away.
I will probably be writing for years about the fire and how it has affected me.  I am not finished figuring it out yet and writing helps me do that.  One thing I know is that I get a strange satisfaction from looking at my nearly empty closet and mostly empty drawers.  Having lost everything I don’t see the point in collecting new things to get attached to.  I feel anxious looking at the huge amounts of stuff that everyone but me has already acquired in the last two years.  I enjoy filling up bags with Goodwill donations and getting them out of here.
030But none of that really explains the Crocs, does it?
The fire left me with one pair of shoes, I believe–my black summer sandals.  And then my hiking boots were rescued from the basement.  Which was a shame, because I have trouble finding comfortable shoes that fit, let alone that are stylish.  I have very flat feet so every attempt at heels ends up with me kicking them off and walking around barefooted for the rest of the night.    I originally wore size 9.5 N.  Many companies skip the larger half sizes, and they also seem to assume that if your feet are long they are wide also.  A 10 M used to fall right off my foot, so most of my shoes had to have straps of some kind.
After five kids, I probably measure more like 10.5.  So that means I have to buy size 11, and I don’t know of you’ve happened to look at that section of your local Payless, but blink and you’ll miss it.  And let’s just add the latest twist, which is that for the past several years I have been experiencing unilateral edema, so that while my right foot remains narrow, my left one varies from narrow to wide, depending.  (Depending on what?  No clue, really.)
This house has wall-to-wall carpet.  So after years of wearing shoes indoors because of gritty hardwood floors (What?  Yours aren’t gritty?  I hate you.) I now go barefooted inside to minimize staining (WHY IS ALL CARPET BEIGE OR TAUPE OR CREAM?  WHO THOUGHT THAT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA?).  I have a pair of slip on shoes outside my garage door and outside my front door for quick trips when I don’t want to go all the way upstairs to put on my shoes.
Now, William apparently has some sensory issues and the only shoes he can stand to put on his feet are Crocs.  For about two years now, we have just bought a new pair when the current ones wear out.  And one of his pairs broke a strap recently.  William being William, he left them outside on the front porch, and one day I slid my feet into them because they looked like they would be just my size.
They were!  And they stay on, and are completely flat, and don’t hurt my feet when I walk (I get plantar fascitis from time to time on top of my other woes.).  All anyone ever says about Crocs is how ugly they are.  No one ever told me they would be so comfortable.
At first, I just slipped them on to drive William to school.  Then I wore them on one of my walks up and down the street.  Then for a quick trip to the grocery store.  Pretty soon I was even wearing them IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, when I picked Lorelei up from school.
What I haven’t done is buy new ones in colors to match my clothes.  Yet.
shoes
 

Spring Cleaning

Winter cleaning doesn’t sound right, and actually it was fall when we did it, but we (mostly me) thoroughly cleaned out our garage a couple of weekends ago in preparation for the arrival of the contents of Grandma’s house. [Update:  And I will be doing it again this week in preparation for the things we are getting as a result of my mother-in-law’s move to an apartment.]
Shortly after we moved in last September, we went to the storage space we had rented right after the house burned down and retrieved our belongings (except for our patio furniture and three other pieces we saved from the basement, it all fit in a 5 x 5 unit).  We brought the boxes home and put them in the garage, and there they sat for over a year.  Why?  Because they were boxes of movies and books (many, many books) that escaped burning but were thoroughly blackened with soot.
I’ve hated going into the garage because of the smell of fire.  And it was hard opening the boxes that had been closed, because the smell was even stronger.  But it was also good, because I found some things I did not know had been saved.  And even though it will blacken my hands to read them, I still can, if I want to.
The books that were in the basement were children’s books (left behind because at some point I got overwhelmed and just wanted to leave), homeschooling books, and series we had collected:  Star Trek (tons of these), Agatha Christie (I had them all!), Patricia Cornwell, Anne Tyler, and a few others.  We cleaned and covered the basement shelves, and now they are all out where I can see them.
Star Trek Books
059
And now that it’s done, you know what?  The fire smell is going away!

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18
I first encountered that quotation as a child when reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  Corrie and her sister Betsie have been imprisoned in a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their Amsterdam home.  One day Betsie reads this Bible verse and declares that she and Corrie are going to thank God for everything about the situation they find themselves in, like the fact that they have been assigned together, that there was no inspection so that they retained the Bible, even the crowded condition of the barracks which will mean more women with whom to share God’s word.  But when Betsie starts giving thanks for the fleas in the barracks, Corrie objects: “Not even God can make me grateful for a flea!”  Her sister reminds her that the words were “give thanks in ALL circumstances,” not just in pleasant ones, and adds that “fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
Betsie’s faith is justified when the soldiers who routinely rape the women in the other barracks avoid their unit because of the fleas.
I haven’t reached the point yet of thanking God that our house burned down.  Maybe I will someday.  But for now it is enough to recognize some of the very real blessings that would never have come our way otherwise.  Today I am thinking about the blessings of friendship.
I think of a couple at church who were barely acquaintances before and became our friends because they offered us office space to use until we found somewhere else to live and work.  I think of a friend whom I had not talked to in a while, and his wife whom I had met only once, who went above and beyond with gifts and time and financial assistance and concern.  I think of people whom I knew at our kids’ schools, especially football parents, whose kindness and support has bridged my innate shyness to make me feel closer to them.  I think of my new next door neighbor, whom I would never have met if I had not moved here, and the book club she invited me to be a part of, and the many fun evenings I have spent in her company.
And I think of YOU, my dear online friends, especially those in the blogging world.  Because the fire made me blog more–I HAD to write, to process this experience:  I am still processing it, obviously.  And I don’t think I would have become as involved in these online communities if it had not been for the fire.  Being online was a comforting refuge, something familiar and safe when things were strange.
I love this month of Thanksgiving, and the challenge that so many of us strive to meet to post on Facebook each day something to be thankful for.  It can be life-changing to realize that no matter how bad things seem there is always, always something to be thankful for.

The Things That Really Matter

Closet space.  Is there ever enough of it?  There were next to no closets in our Victorian house.  We purchased three armoires from Myrtle’s Mess for the bedrooms, and crammed them so full the doors would barely close. (John’s enormous oak armoire is one of three pieces of furniture salvaged from the fire.)
So we were excited when we moved into what the kids now call “the burnt down house” to distinguish it from “the old house” and “our first house.”  I had a walk-in (or at least “step-in”) closet and John appropriated the closet in the office for his clothes.  (Teddy still had to use the armoire, which is why it was in the basement and survived the flames; the other two were stored in the garage.)
And we crammed those closets full.  Mine had clothes in several sizes, even some things that were twenty years old.  Some I hoped to wear again one day, some had purely sentimental value.  There were old pocketbooks, and scarves, and lots of shoes.   And of course I had a dresser crammed full of socks and underwear and t-shirts.  And an overflowing laundry basket with the clothes I wore most of the time, which never seemed to get put away.
It sounds strange to say that the timing of Grandma’s death was a blessing, but it was.  Not only did it probably save our lives, since we were all out of the house when it exploded into flames, but it meant that we all had several days’ worth of clothes with us (and our computers!).  The clothes I took to Baltimore (and wouldn’t you know I had tried to pack as light as possible) were all that I had.
It didn’t take long before our kids had more clothes than we knew what to do with.  Family had already started buying things for Jake and Teddy before John and I and the little kids made it back to Knoxville.  Donations poured in from near and far on a daily basis.  Lorelei ended up with a wardrobe fit for a little princess.
John did not do badly either.  Thanks to my cousin Melissa, who works in a medical practice, he ended up with a closet full of doctors’ dress clothes (which are pretty much the same as attorneys’ dress clothes!).  She also gave took him on a shopping trip in Uncle Charlie‘s closet.  He did have to buy a couple of new suits, but he soon had more clothes than he started with!
I had a harder time.  Much of what was donated either did not fit or did not suit me.  And although I had some gift cards, beyond replacing absolute necessities I never seemed to make the time to shop.
When we went to look at houses to rent, realtors would talk up the storage aspect and I would just laugh, because we had nothing left to store.  Our new house sports a walk-in closet so big you could hang out in it (and in fact sometimes I do read in there at night!).  Until my last trip to Walmart (when I added about three outfits) this is what my side of the closet looked like:

I have a dresser that actually has EMPTY DRAWERS.  I don’t own enough underwear to make it through the week.
Now this is not a pity-party or an attempt to solicit gift cards.  🙂  I held onto a Christmas gift card for several months before I finally went shopping.  The point is that I have been trying to sort out in my own head what I have learned in the past year, what it all means.  Because if something like that happens to you and you don’t at least get some wisdom from it, that would really suck, right?
So one thing I am learning is what THINGS (in the literal sense of the word) matter to me.  And clearly clothes don’t rank high on that list.  It’s probably no surprise to anyone to find out what does, what I already have more of than I can use, what I accumulate more of weekly.

Standing outside the Fire

I’ve written this post in my head dozens of times, each one different.  It’s an anniversary, and I knew I should–that I wanted to, NEEDED to–commemorate it in some way.  But should I talk about what I’ve learned?  The good things it brought about? Just start off with “one year ago today”?  Reassure everyone (and myself) that everything is okay now?  Shoot for inspiring, or tragic?
Maybe my confusion stems from the fact that I haven’t fully processed it yet.  That there are days when I think–or even say–“I just can’t believe that happened to us.”  Not out of self-pity, but in honest disbelief because it seems unreal at times–almost magical.  Everything changed–everything GONE–in a few minutes’ time.  Maybe I haven’t been “standing outside the fire” long enough to know exactly what it all means–and maybe it’s going to take more than one anniversary post to sort it all out.
So let’s start with this:  one year ago today, I woke up in Baltimore, fully expecting that the next day, after the funeral, I would be returning here:
Not here:
But that’s what happened.