Originally written in May, 2011…re-posting.
A small brush fire near my home last night brought a trooper to my door saying to prepare for the worst…the wind was taking it our direction…be ready to leave without warning. Warning. Wasn’t that what he just gave us?
I went back into the house and gathered the children. “Pack your school backpack with some good clothes,” I told them. “And three small things that are important to you.”
Three small things. It seemed like a good number. Then I Facebooked what was happening…because what else would I do?
I went to my bedroom closet and pulled out two tubs of photographs. I grabbed my childhood teddy bear from my headboard and stuffed him in the box. I loaded my laptop, my camera, my hard drive and my photos into the truck. Done. I went to check on the kids.
Anthony was in his room carefully scanning his things. He’d loaded a shoe box of special books, his drawing notebook, and three dirty socks. He then shoved his six dollars into his pocket. He left behind the tattered stack of photos of his birth family that had been lying next to the money. Interesting.
The two small boys, who’ve only been here since February, were carefully watching the commotion. They’d each put one pair of jeans and a shirt in their bag and waited by the door. That’s it. That is all they wanted. Kids who shuffle through the system don’t attach to anyone…or anything. Everything they’d ever needed was standing next to them, holding a matching Spiderman backpack.
I stood on the back deck. Our normally silent neighborhood was filled with sirens, helicopters, spotter planes circling overhead. The road that passes our house, usually used once a day by one neighbor checking on his horses, was a superhighway of curious onlookers…checking what was happening…seeing how much time they had to find their three small things.
Text messages came in from people on scene. Someone had fired up a dozer and was building a dirt wall around a friend’s home. Firefighters from 50 miles away were on scene along with our local volunteers, fighting to save their neighbors’ homes. Within minutes of the first sign of smoke help flooded in from all over. Miracle workers…ordinary people…risking their lives for us.
Billy emerged from the shop where he’d scanned the tools, deciding what daddy would want…since he was helplessly at work, waiting to hear news. He and I loaded our best four-wheeler into the back of the truck, glanced at all the snow machines, the off-road projects, the plow truck, the 1200 square feet of wall to wall tools, the years of compilation…and then looked away. Nothing we could do.
Robin leaned against the rail of the deck, watching the commotion. She’d put Mya’s hamster in the truck, since Mya wasn’t home, and had her history book in hand…ready to throw it to the flames.
“That’s the great thing about being adopted,” she said in her sarcastic way. “No childhood memories to pack up. I’m ready to go.”
Destini came from her bedroom with a duffle bag, her purse, and Patch, her stuffed Dalmatian.
“That’s all you’re taking?” I asked.
“It was weird,” she said. “I stood there in my full room, looking around at my clothes, all the collectibles, the things I’d had forever…and suddenly none of it really mattered.”
None of it really mattered.
When it came down to it…when we thought we may have just minutes to gather our most important things…each one of us on our own had made the split second decision to leave it all behind.
I’d packed my photos and the computer that held my photos and didn’t even consider anything else. Destini had left behind 17 years worth of living and carried a favorite stuffed dog. Billy had brought nothing of his own…but tried to salvage things for daddy. Robin had pondered the bright side of having no memories to gather, and thought only of the pets. Anthony had abandoned his birth family photos in favor of six bucks. And two boys who’d never had anything to begin with walked away without even flinching…like they’d done so many times before.
And now I sit here in all my clutter of crap and wonder why we spend our lives accumulating things that in the end….never even mattered at all.