Has it really been two years since the fire? Just a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about how people get through bad events in their lives – it was the week of the Boston Marathon bomb and West, TX explosion – and recalled my own personal catastrophe. It feels like the fire was at least five years ago, but the date of May 12, 2011 is burned into my memory (pun intended). My recollection of those first weeks after the fire seems both intense and blurry. The consequences of the fire were so many – months of gutting and rebuilding the house, meticulous listing and pricing of personal property, replacing a household, contractor and insurance paperwork, moving back and forth. The impact on my daily life was so overwhelming that surely it must have been 4-5 years, right?
Perhaps the house fire seems so long ago because I’ve literally moved away from it all. I followed through on my plans to sell (the fire occurred two days before the house was to go on the market) and moved to a different kind of house in a different kind of neighborhood on the other side of town. If before the fire I had wanted a new beginning to my empty-nester stage of life, I wanted it even more so after the fire. The house I left behind was much larger and practically new with beautiful cabinetry and floors and fixtures. Everyone asked if I was sure I wanted to sell, even my realtor. I admit to fleeting moments of doubt, but I knew deep down that it would take more than granite countertops or hardwood floors to keep me there. I was ready to downsize, find a smaller house just for me and the dogs, live closer to the city center, and change things up in my life.
So how are things going two years out, you might ask? Do I miss my big, beautiful house? Have I regretted moving? And more importantly, how are the dogs adjusting? Oh yes, and the human offspring? I’m happy to report that we’re all doing fairly well, even very well in some aspects. I don’t miss my former home, even though it’s been a challenge fitting into a house over a thousand square feet smaller. My new house is about the same age as I am, so it has some wrinkles but lots of character. The same could be said for the neighborhood, but I like being in an older Austin neighborhood with a distinct personality. ‘Transitional’ some call it, though I prefer ‘up and coming.’ I can get downtown in ten minutes and I’m slowly but surely discovering new shops and restaurants in my new part of town. I’ve gained a good friend a few houses down and started to meet more neighbors.
The dogs are happy here, especially my timid Rosie. I think the other house had too much space for her. The yard is big enough for them and plenty of people walk their dogs past our house, so they have lots of fun barking through the front windows. I’ve adopted a cat, Zachary, 10 years old and best friends with Buddy, who is the happiest dog ever now that he has a cat to love on. Daughter Sarah has already spent some school vacations in the guest room and despite its small size, seemed comfortable enough. Son Jacob has had a few bumps in the road in his post-fire recovery, but he has matured a lot, is working hard, and returns to college this summer after a year’s break. Life has certainly been busy since the fire and not always in a good way, but it’s heading in the right direction. I don’t think about my house fire so much any more; I don’t like to dwell on the past. Still, sometimes it’s good to look back, reflect, and appreciate how far we have all come since that Thursday night in May. Just not too often.