Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two years later

August 25.

It's been two years.

Today is also the first day of school, just as it was that day. Kids once again don their backpacks, their hair done up just so with their brand new clothes still free from dirt. Parents line the parking lot, say their good-byes, maybe even shed a tear or two. I wonder if I would still be teaching...

Two years ago today I sat in a quiet classroom, creating accommodation sheets for the gen ed teachers with students on my case load. I walked through the hallway with a smile, watching the moms and dads accompany their kindergartners, thinking about that day five or six years down the road when Dan and I would do the same for Kellen. I wondered if he would be at Riverside as well and whether I would still be teaching there.

I got a massage after school, my back in so much pain from the pressure Kellen exerted on it. And yet, all felt right in the world.

Until 6:00.

I will never forget seeing smoke while driving home and the insta-panic that set in. I will never forget the knowing I felt in that moment that my life was going to be forever changed, even though our house had yet to burn down. I will always remember telling Erin that I had "five minutes left of hope" before Dan called back to tell me that our house was gone after he asked a policeman to find out.

You don't forget the details.

I still know what exploding propane sounds like. I know how the air smells when all of your memories have been consumed by it. I know how invisible shards of fiberglass feel when they slip down into your lungs. I know what it feels like to step on a foot of ash, crushing the things you most want to find. I know the difference between salvageable and recognizable. I know the joy of finding a charred pearl in the ash, even though it will never be worn again.

Two years have gone by, and yet I still can transport my mind back to those minutes, those hours, those days. It can't possibly have been two years.

And yet, in two years, I have grown up, changed. Like my new house, I am stronger, reinforced, maybe even more beautiful inside. As the new house settles, I too feel more settled in my new life, adjusting each day to the changing rhythms of being. My house has a few cracks in the wall, as do we all, some more visible than others. But I've realized that loss often gives us an opportunity to rebuild, creating a stronger foundation along the way.

I still wish I could undo the fire, recreate my old house, sit on my green microfiber couch watching my twenty-seven inch television. But I recognize that we don't always get to choose our paths, and it's not about wishing or wanting or expecting things to be different. In the last two years I've learned that your only real choice is what you make of your experiences... good or bad.

Thank you for joining us on our journey.


  1. This was beautiful to read, Brooke.

  2. Yeah, that really was beautiful.

  3. Hi, I'm a stranger :-)) I clicked at "next blog" and found yours. (Something I've never done.)
    What an experience! I felt very very sorry for you loss, but extremely happy for you that you could re-build from ashes, and for what you have gotten out of that experience. Is it true that "what can't break you, makes you tough"?
    Good luck to you and to your new life.

  4. Thanks for leaving a comment Carol (and for clicking "next").

    I think the fire did break me. In fact I'm almost certain of it. But I have been able to put the pieces together again and redefine my life. And that has made me stronger, yes.

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  6. Caught a misspelling on earlier comment so deleted it.

    Brooke, I had no idea that you had gone through this. No matter how evolved we become there will always be scars but we can become stronger at the broken places (can't remember who said that)

    All my best, Kathy (from Twitter)

  7. (((Huge hugs))) on such a memorable day. Please know you're in my thoughts :)

  8. Sorry to hear about your experiences, but I'm glad it has seemed to have a happy ending for you and your family. Thanks for visiting my blog.