It's been... difficult... this week, trying to get ready for the holidays. The kids were fabulous, and helped me get the house in order on Saturday so we could put up the tree and decorate for Christmas in between going to a Penance service at 11am and my/Little Brother's combined birthday dinner that evening.
About 4:30, when the tree was up but not decorated or lighted, I decided it was time to head over the Mom's for dinner. That was about when the police cars showed up. And stopped in front of our yard.
One look out the window sent me flying out the door in my slippers - the neighbors on my west, who have been there for 22 years, I've watched their kids grow up, they watched us, etc. - their carriage house from 1910 was on fire.
I stood in the road with Mrs. Neighbor, watching the flames, and watching her husband move cars that were parked in front of the carriage house. By the time he got them moved, the flames were already touching the porch roof.
Over the next hour, we watched the progression as the carriage house burned completely and the fire got into the eaves and walls of the house. We have a fabulous fire department, and they pulled out all the tricks and gear, but it took 6 hours to put it out, the majority of which I watched with Mrs. N from my bedroom.
I don't feel like it's my place to show you the carnage. It's too... personal. For everyone. Despite the fact that random people feel comfortable parking in the driveway and blatently taking gawker-pictures. I haven't even felt comfortable blogging it until some of the dust settled.
The community has been fabulous, and much has been offered. They stayed with my parents overnight the first night, and moved to a hotel after that, as their grown kids started to trickle into town. We're all still a little (or a lot) in shock, and not much appears to be salvageable.
Thank God no one was hurt. Things are just that - things - and can be replaced. I've been helping to take pictures of the damaged property so they can list what they owned for insurance to cover it. It's tedious, difficult, dirty, and heartbreaking.
So do yourself, and your family, a favor this holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate: go around your home and take pictures of everything. Every bookshelf in enough detail to read the titles, every drawer pulled open to show the contents, every closet laid out to show the clothes. Open your cupboards and take pictures of the dishes and appliances, snap a pic of the bottom of a plate to show the make if they're worth anything. Go snap a picture of your CD collection, the serial number on your computer, the label on your TV...whatever you own.
Don't tell me this isn't important, that it's too hard, that you have enough to do without adding this. If we had tons of time I would tell you to make written lists of all the information, but we don't. We're busy. So go take a hundred, two hundred pictures, whatever it takes. It shouldn't take more than an hour, especially if you have help.
Then write it all the a CD, or to a thumbdrive, or a DVD, or an external drive...and give it away. Take it to work, send it to your parents' house, your best friend's house, a safe deposit box, whatever. Get it out of your house. Because it could have been you. It could have been me. it happens, and it happens far more often this time of year, believe it or not.
And I suppose I don't need to remind you to make sure a copy of your home or renter's insurance is with those pictures, do I?
What do you mean you don't have renter's insurance??? If you're renting, you need it. It's really inexpensive, and can make all the difference in your world, should you need it. Go on. Do it. Now.
So we have two days till Christmas, and nothing is wrapped. I'm not fretting (yet), but I am getting a little antsy about it. I think I have a little better perspective on it than I normally do.
So when I was going to work yesterday morning, and I was late, and I had to go home to retrieve things I had forgotten I was getting irritated and grumpy. And I pulled onto the road by the river and immediately had to pull into the church parking lot and stare at the river.
The morning colors were glorious, and I stood there, in the cold, and took pictures of the amazing sunrise until the color faded again and I was really and truly late for work.