WHEN THE GOOD NEWS IS, "We've saved your house – your house is still standing" – you don't even want to know what the bad news is.
We left home Friday afternoon, with neighbors, for a jaunt up to a ski resort in northeast PA. It was a jolly caravan – boys, dogs, skis, boots – complete with the requisite McDonalds dinner stop. The plan was to spend the long holiday weekend hanging out, skiing, geocaching, eating, drinking, and relaxing.
As we headed north into the mountains, the wind had become strong and gusty and tossed our high-profile vehicle around in a way that reminded me of turbulence on an airplane. It was white-knuckle driving, to say the least.
We got to the house, quickly unpacked and immediately settled into relaxation mode. Jenga was played. Gin was consumed. Dogs were walked. Hours passed. We stayed up too late Friday night and slept late Saturday morning.
Half of our gang suited up and drove to the top of the hill to ski, and I ventured up the hill to make a grocery run in town. As the skiiers were lacing their boots, I was filling a grocery cart with things I would need to make Sunday night's dinner. And that's when our cell phones began to ring.
Some of our neighbors had urgently been trying to reach us with dire news, and our cell phones didn't have reception at the house. Our next door neighbor called to inform us that a wicked brush fire had swept through behind our house, right up the power line right-of-way, and had gotten into our back yard. Did we need to come home now? I asked. Probably not, but if you wait, he said, I'll walk over to your property. He described a scene of several firemen trying to extinguish the back yard. Then he put one of them on the phone, at which point he delivered the "good news."
I was a little bit dazed as I stood there next to the peanut butter and jelly in aisle 17. I phoned back to the house to inform Curt. He said he'd received a call, he was already packing up so we could leave, and could I hurry home so they could load the car?
And I actually said to him, sure, let me put all this stuff in my cart back where it was…
And he was like UM HONEY OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE YOU CAN JUST LEAVE THE CART WHERE IT IS.
Oh, right! Yes. Of course. Be right there.
So, we threw everything back into the vehicles and pointed our jolly caravan back down the road, for a trip even more harrowing than Friday night's, owing again to the strong, gusty winds. Which of course did not bode well for fire control.
We missed all the drama, the many firefighting units from all over the region that descended upon our neighborhood. We missed seeing the fire come raging down the right-of-way, through our back yard, where it gobbled up the leaves and brush laying around (it's a woodsy lot). We missed the next-door neighbor who stubbornly refused orders to leave his property so he could stay and turn a hose on the embers. We missed seeing fire consume the split-rail fence on three sides of our property, our metal shed and its contents, and approach the back of our house, singeing our patio furniture. And we missed the part where the fire started to burn our house, at which point the fire fighters broke the French doors to the patio so they could get in side and stop it from turning our home into a pile of rubble.
This could have been so, so much worse.
Our awesome neighbors covered the hole in the wall with plywood before we even got back home.
The weirdest thing is, I went to bed last night feeling enormously lucky. The last time I felt that way was a few days after Seth had his stroke, which was five years ago this month. (And people wonder why I hate February.) Then, the initial experience was harrowing, like nothing I've ever experienced. But we came to realize, especially when he entered inpatient rehab, that he could have gotten so much worse than he did.
And so could've we, it seems.