Ask yourself what does it take for your house to feel like home. When you travel, what do you take with you so you can sleep? When you walk in your front door at the end of the day, what is the first thing you look for? Close your eyes and imagine your house. Can you name what's in every cupboard? Every drawer? Where are your dishes kept? How about the spare bedding? Your deck of cards?
These are the things that make up the normal rhythm of life. Within just a few hours our "normal" rhythm being silenced for us, we were surrounded by friends, neighbors and even strangers who wanted to help us re-establish that rhythm. It was an amazing, humbling, awe-inspiring experience to be the recipient of the best of humanity.
Just as we would always unpack the children's rooms first when we moved, the children were the first that others thought of after the loss of our home. Clothing, books, toys, coloring books and blankets were among the many items that were brought for our kids. Emily, our youngest daughter, spent that first night holding a doll instead of her much loved blankie and Lela slept with a stuffed animal someone else had brought. A dear friend took me shopping that night to purchase pajamas, a outfit for the next day, shoes, shampoo, underwear, toothbrushes and swimsuits for each of my children. She understood that as a mother, I would need to know that my children were taken care of before I would take care of myself. It was obvious from the outpouring of kindness that the needs of the youngest (and I include teenagers in that) among us is the first thought of many.
The morning after the fire I was chatting online with another friend and co-worker. He told me how helpless he had felt watching our house burn and how he wished he could have done more. I let him know how much I appreciated him being there with Rick. I also told him that he could not underestimate the importance of clean underwear and clothes and thanks to him, Rick had both. Rick is a big boy and we had really been unable to find anything for him to wear. This friend had gone home and not only brought shirts for Rick, but three brand new pair of underwear. The psychological boost Rick received from being able to put on fresh undies upon returning from the fire was immeasurable.
The next days were spent by many trips to the store as we realized that there was something that we needed. Many times I caught myself thinking I have that in the...... Not anymore. Some of the other things that I found that helped re-establish normal in those first days - cell phones, a purse, wallets, driver's licenses, debit cards (access to our money) and our car back. The keys had been lost in the fire along with my purse and Rick's wallet. It took a locksmith three hours to make new keys from scratch.
It was interesting to see the things that people gave us. It was as if we were receiving insight into what others felt meant normal. We learned that many neighbors collect shampoo and soaps from hotels. I feel I can mention this, since I do the same thing. I had a whole basket under my bathroom sink filled with these items and now have a container full again. One individual brought us a flashlight, screwdriver and a pair of pliers. Since moving into our new home, we have actually used all three. The fact that we had them accessible when needed was found to be amazing. We also received a calendar and clocks.
One sweet person, whom I don't even know, sent me a picture of Christ for our home. It is a picture of Christ leaving the tomb that first Easter morning. How appropriate for our family! Another friend told us how her family had been discussing our experience. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches us that when we leave this life, the only things we take with us are the knowledge we have gained and our families. This life is just one part of our eternal progression and our goal is to spend that eternity with our families. Her son had commented that not many people ever experience in life what it is like to leave everything behind as in death. It is our faith in Christ and His love and sacrifice for us that make eternal life possible. We know that things are just that - things; but our family is what is truly important.
We tried to get a feel for what would help our kids establish a sense of normalcy. Lela returned to participating with the swim team and both girls continued with swim lessons. Their room is decorated in pinks and purples, flowers and butterflies. There are stuffed animals on the dresser and clothes in the closet. Prior to the fire each girl owned two pair of tennis shoes, a pair of shoes for church, and depending on the season either snow boots or flip-flops. The news made a point in every article to state that we didn't even have shoes when we left our house. Now between the two of them, the girls have almost 40 pairs of shoes. Emily, whose favorite pasttime is trying shoes on in the store, now wears a different pair of shoes for every activity.
The boys are reconnected electronically - cell phones, MP3 players, handheld video games, internet, television and a Wii. The home we are renting is now furnished with beds, a sofa and loveseat and a dining table. We have pans to cook food and dishes to eat the food. Rick once again has his binnies to sort his recyclables. Our youngest son told me it about killed dad to throw away some aluminum cans. And I have pictures of my children and extended family hanging on my walls. While all these things are new to us, they remind us of what life was like before and what life will be like again.
We have also expanded our family again. My friend Linda, who is the Animal Control Officer, came to visit us the first Sunday we were in our new house. She commented on how quiet the house was. She then proceeded to mention that she had a parakeet at the shelter that needed a home. She is an evil genius, and Mr. Bubbles now resides in our living room. The night after he came home with me, Lela looked at me and said she now knew things were going to be okay cause we now had more than one pet again.
We are now starting to plan our new home. We have been asked many times if we are planning on rebuilding. I don't think that rebuilding is the right term. We can never restore what we had, but we can create something just as great for our family. Rick has said more than once that life will never be the same again, but different doesn't need to mean bad. Life was great before, it is good now, and it will be great again.