It’s hard to feel normal when you’re living in someone else’s house with someone else’s furniture and dealing with the aftermath of a house fire. I’m trying, though. Bit by bit, step by step, some aspects of our life are moving out of crisis mode. The dogs, while still thinking it’s fun to escape the fenced yard, have found their favorite spots in the house. Buddy has claimed a chair and Rosie a place on the couch. They both appreciate that I allow them in my bedroom at night now. They’re adjusting. My daughter enjoys having a two-bedroom suite and her own bathroom. She’s added some personal touches here and there to make her space more personal. My son, who really doesn’t care whether his room is personal or not, has made his own mark by leaving empty glasses and dirty plates and crumpled clothes all over the place. As I said, back to normal.
Even more importantly, I convinced Jacob to let me help him register for a class at the community college. This is a big deal because the last registration attempt triggered panic attacks. He just hadn’t been ready to start something new so soon after the fire. I didn’t actually do anything, but we went together to the campus and I waited around for him to complete the process. He still needs that back-up, just knowing I’m there (though I doubt he’d admit it). No panic attacks. He’s registered. Now that he’s done it once, I think he’ll be ok the next time. But if not, I can linger in the background. I’ll try not to care that staff think I’m an interfering mom or a helicopter parent. They didn’t go through his breakdown last month.
There are other tiny steps towards normality that I notice. We all go to the neighborhood pool, not so much to swim, but sitting there in the rare Austin breeze, is pleasant. The two are chatting together, not just texting friends and checking their messages. I upgraded my Y membership to include both kids, and now we go to the gym a few times a week. I have pretty much stopped working out since the fire, so despite the pain, it feels good to be back. I even went to my tai chi class for the first time in months. The teacher was sorry about ‘my life challenges’ and glad to see me again. All relatively minor activities, but they are steps in the right direction.
The hardest thing for me to do has been to treat myself, do something I don’t have to do, buy something I don’t really need. I started with plants. At my own house, I had bought lots of colorful flowering plants to show the yard off, give it a bit more curb appeal. I had also planted tomatoes and herbs – all dead now as a consequence of the fire. Triple degree heat and no water at the house wiped them out in a matter of days. But one morning, as I was at a home supply store researching fixtures and flooring, I detected the scent of basel. And rosemary. I abandoned my mission immediately and bought some herbs instead. At least I could have a few container plants at the rental house. Just a few. Small steps to a garden of sorts. It’s a start.