Are we there yet? I knew that reaching the one-year anniversary of my house fire would not bring full closure, but I guess I was hoping deep down that I’d be able to close the door firmly on this episode of my life. I was also focused on the one-year anniversary as a deadline for turning in any last receipts to the insurance company. I finally sent them off, so all I had to do was to wait for the final check, another ‘last’ in my fire experience. A few months ago I even sold the house where the fire took place. I’ve moved away. I’m now settled into a new house in a different part of town. I finally got rid of every single packed box, the same boxes that Specialty Restoration had used to store all my salvaged and desmoked property. But I haven’t yet been able put everything in its proper place. I’m still waiting for the replacement buffet to arrive, so I’m forced to store its future contents in the garage. Once the buffet is delivered, I can finally organize my extra dishes, linens, and ceramics. Then I’ll really feel that it’s all over, right?
In the early post-fire months, Mark the contractor told me that it would take a full year after being unpacked and settled into my house before I’d realize that something was missing. You need to go through the whole calendar year, he said, and on some special occasion you’ll ask yourself where such-and-such decorations or equipment or holiday dishes are. Then it’ll hit you – you never did unpack those items. They’re gone, missing in action, just a memory. Unfortunately, the insurance company doesn’t follow that same philosophy. Bruce the insurance guy has been fairly accommodating throughout the process and I have no real complaints. In fact, I’m grateful that the insurance has treated me so well. But one year after the event of a fire (or any disaster that deprives you of your home) is just not long enough. The first months are totally chaotic and your surviving property is taken away to be cleaned and stored. You have no idea what survived and what went up in smoke. The process was prolonged in my case. Even after moving back to my restored house, I didn’t unpack much. I followed through on my plan to sell the house. By the time I settled into my new permanent address and unpacked, the year anniversary was nearly there.
In the end, though, the stuff isn’t the most important. Yes, it’s a nuisance to realize I don’t have some odd kitchen gadget when I need it. I also feel some sadness about the loss of some items that had sentimental memories for me, but I don’t dwell on it. I’ve moved beyond that now. That much I can, indeed, close the door on. The harder part is feeling jumpy when I see or hear a fire truck go racing by, anxious when central Texas enters the fire season, or nervous on a business trip. But really, what are the chances that a house fire will happen again? That I’ll get a call returning from a trip that my son is on the way to ER and the house is on fire? Haven’t I used up my quota of catastrophes? If only it were so simple! I can never truly slam the door shut on such a traumatic experience, but I do see that it is closing slowly. I may wish to shut it completely, but I suspect that the fire door will always remain just a little bit ajar.