In my last musing, I wrote about my friend, Randi, and her family as they prepared to evacuate the California fires should it become necessary. Randi is a fabric artist and had to make hard choices: What to take? What to leave? As it turned out, they did not have to evacuate and are okay. In case you’re wondering what happened next, here is an update from Randi.
Our rolling bags, tote bags, and go-bags remained in our front entryway for 10 days. During that time, I would glance at them and try to decide if I needed to add something, take something out, or simply repack. Instead I tried to find something else to do…like go to the fabric store. On the day I headed to the store the fires had been heading further south and north along the 101 and I felt safe enough to leave the house. But as I looked toward the Santa Monica mountains directly across the valley, there was a vast roiling eruption of smoke. It was enormous and fast moving like the depictions of the Vesuvius eruption in movies. I thought of the plaster cast Pompeiians. Were they as bewildered, awestruck, yet still in denial as they tried to go about their daily tasks? I was like that as I drove to the fabric store? I was rattled and confused enough that I turned around and went home, despite a coupon for 50% off quilt batting.
Now we are emerging from a kind of suspended animation. But for many others who lost everything, the somnambulance of shock is just beginning.
When the day came to unpack all the bags, I was once again dazed and confused. I discovered that my semi-panicked decisions of what to pack in those early morning hours was a little…off. I found enough underpants to last several people, of various sizes, for weeks, but no hairbrush. A seldom worn peignoir and a Phillips head screwdriver. A tote bag (empty) from the Victoria and Albert Museum but not one of my hard-earned diplomas. A bottle of perfume but no deodorant. Too many books but no reading glasses. Nothing to quilt or embroider.
Yet there was one little treasure I will pack again and again. It is a framed photograph from 1920 of my mother. She is about 6 months old and must have just learned to sit up by herself. She sits, dressed in a lovely confection of white lawn and lace. A gold bracelet, gifted from the farm wife down the road who delivered her, encircles her tiny wrist. This is the only copy that exists. Somehow in my mad dash around the house that night, I slipped it and the selfsame gold bracelet into a ziplock bag. I have no memory of doing that.
I know what you are thinking….I would not be your first choice to help pack up in an emergency…but hey- you wouldn’t have to worry about clean underpants!