Thursday, May 26, 2011

I survived!

We're back in Boise after a long seven weeks (five in California with a two-week break in between). 

I've been asked several times how I'm feeling.  I can hear the hope in others' voices that I'm going to respond, "I'm FANTASTIC!"  I'm still not quite there, but...

I am doing better.  I caught a cold as soon as we got back.  As crazy as it sounds, actually responding to a cold means my immune system is starting to kick in and respond to a virus.  I started work this week at our new office for our new business, which I will share more about in coming weeks, and I've been handling six hour days like someone who doesn't worry about the number of spoons in their pocket.  I'm hopeful that my energy will stay strong.  It's also great to be able to have something else to focus on other than my health and trying to feel better. 

The bad news is I'm still dizzy.  The heavy metal protocol is helping, and I have FAR fewer dizzy days than before.  I'm hopeful that I can eventually reduce this to a very rare occurrence, but at least I am functioning now. 

This has been a long road.  We're almost THREE years from the fire.  But I survived.  Even in the worst of days, I survived. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The burning house

A fellow fire survivor alerted me to a website called The Burning House where people submit photos and lists of the things they would save in a fire.  According to Foster Huntington, the website's creator, it's "a conflict between what's practical, valuable and sentimental."  I was asked what I thought of the site.

I understand the curiosity.  The week before the fire, I saw smoke near our house and in a moment of panic, raced toward our house before realizing everything was ok.  I reflected frequently that next week what I would save if, in fact, my house was burning down.  I think it's probably a question many of our own family and friends have asked themselves after seeing our pile of ashes.  I also think it requires people to reflect on the meaning of their things as opposed to being so quick to dismiss it as "just stuff."

With that said, the site disturbs me.  I think it's because the tone is so flippant.  "If your house was burning, what would you take with you?" as though you have time to wander your house casually pulling out all the things that matter.  Maybe it's just me, but that just sounds so calm and dismissive of the drama that is your home burning down.  This site is designed for entertainment, and yet the question of what to take isn't a philosophical one for thousands of people.  It's their reality and causes significant emotional stress.

There's nothing real about a display of someone's soccer shoes and sunglasses, posing perfectly.  The only clothes I got out were the ones on my back, and the smell of smoke lingered in the cotton pores for months.  My wedding dress, the one thing I would have told you I would have grabbed, was indiscernible amongst the thousands of fiberglass particles.  And had my husband tried to get that, perhaps he wouldn't have made it out of the fire at all.  This isn't a philosophical question, Mr. Huntington. 

If your house was on fire, in flames, the responsible action is to get the hell out.  This isn't an exercise in what's practical, valuable, or sentimental.

Can you imagine after Katrina a site that asked what you would grab in a Category Five hurricane?  Or after this year's devastating tornadoes a site that asked what you'd haul down to your basement as the sirens blared overhead?  Maybe a better question to ask would be what are the things you would miss most if you lost your house?  That at least implies loss, which I feel is missing from that site.

This is what loss looks like:

There's my wedding dress, my son's coming home outfit, his crib, the blanket I slept with as a child.  That pile includes my wine flutes from my wedding, the  pictures of my childhood, hours and hours and hours and hours of renovations on our first home.  I don't need to imagine my burning home.  That is it.  Burnt.  Loss.  Destruction.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My typewriter collection

I love typewriters. I have a vague memory of learning to type on one in elementary school before I got my first IBM when I was eight.  Even though I loved the games a floppy disk could provide (Frogger, Double Dare), there was something alluring about a typewriter.  Although I'm not one to notice sounds much, I'm pretty sure it's the way the keys clack.  (Side note- that's one thing I hate about a touch screen on the iPad.  No sounds of productivity.)

I bought my first typewriter in 2006 at an antique shop in Boise.  We even bought ink for it.  Even though I coveted the technological advances of the past thirty years, I was proud of my working typewriter.  Not that I actually used it!  I imagined all the things that might have been written with it, though it probably had just helped draft some legal documents or sat on a secretary's desk awaiting transcription. 

On Labor Day weekend two years later, I pulled that typewriter out of the rubble, something that was at least recognizable.  Our flash drive didn't survive the heat.  But the typewriter seemed somewhat indestructible, though the letters on the keys apparently were flammable.

Typewriters are not easily replaced as it turns out, particularly ones that have a little bit of character.  You can't just drive to Staples and purchase an antique typewriter.  Nine months after the fire, while in Bend, I finally found a replacement.  It didn't sit up quite as much, but it had a different kind of charm and looked like it could have been used in an accountant's office in the early 70s. 

I thought I only needed one typewriter, seeing that I don't actually use them for anything more than decoration.  And then my grandmother passed away, adding another Underwood to my collection.  The fact that you can clearly read the brand tells you how immaculately my grandmother cared for this, even after she transitioned to Windows XP.  I love it, even if it is "noiseless."

Last week I added another typewriter to my collection.  I'm pretty sure this is my new favorite.  It doesn't catch quite right making it potentially non-functional, not that I'm composing anything with a typewriter anyway.  I love how high it sits up.  And it's really, really heavy and also kind of dirty.  Who knew that's what I would find so charming.

I love that I'm at a place finally where I have a collection of something.  I find a bit of irony in the oldness of the collection, that I've found myself drawn to things that already have a story, even if I don't know what that arc looks like.  And most of all, I love that these typewriters have come to me organically.  After the fire I was in such a rush to replace, to rebuild.  But collections take time, are more deliberate, even if you start collecting the object by accident. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I'm not a perfect mother

I'm not a perfect mother.

I yell more than I would like and find myself hiding in bathrooms, curled up against the door just to get a minute alone, sometimes lightly banging my head against the wall to drown out the noise.  I am not proud of my frustration or anger.  But being a mom makes me more conscious of it.

I say "no" far more often than "yes" and find my little curly-headed two year old laughing at me more than obeying.  But I stay firm, believing, maybe in my more insane moments, that consistency is the key to raising a well-behaved child.

I spend several hours a day behind a computer screen, hoping that my son is content to play trains.  He usually is.

I feed him boxed Mac and Cheese for more meals than I've had it in my entire twenty-eight years.  And I often forget to include vegetables.  He seems to survive in spite of yellow dye no 7.

I'm supposed to be strong, to comfort my son when he's afraid on the airplane.  Instead, I clutch the arm rests and repeat, "It's going to be ok."  You could pretend I'm saying it for both of us.  But really, it's mostly for me.

My son knows phrases like "mommy's medicine" and "doctor" and "spaceship" (the hyperbaric chamber).  All he has known is a sick mom, and I worry that he will one day resent me for that, wishing his mother had been able to be there for him in times where she was stuck in bed.  He'll never know the amount of time I spent worrying about his well-being if I died.

I'm not a perfect mother, not even close. And often I think being a mother makes me even more aware of my shortcomings.

But I love my son.  And that seems to be enough to overcome my faults.

Happy Mother's Day to all the other imperfect mothers out there!