It was the creepy part of the house actually. The part of the house we were afraid of as kids.
I believe I was in 1st grade when this happened. We lost everything.
I have mixed, random memories of this event. Well, I was in school when it happened but I do have memories of my grandparents picking us up from school and telling us that we no longer had a home; That we would all be staying with them for a while.
They drove us by the house to prove it, and as I watched in awe as the black smoke danced and twirled its way up into the clear blue sky, I remember wondering where our dog Roger was.
Roger didn’t make it. My memories of that dog are few, but the memory encompassing the upset of that discovery is vivid. I also remember that we had named him Roger because we loved Roger Rabbit.
My grandparents house had a small building next to it the size of a shed. This building contained an open room with a bed on one side and a bathroom on the other side of it. This is where we stayed after the house burned down. All 7 of us.
It’s weird to think of that now. How we all crammed in that little space together and coexisted there for that time. When you’re a kid, things like that can seem like an adventure. Like a camping trip. Something new and out of the ordinary. That’s a good thing, the blissful ignorance of childhood.
Some nice people in the town collected money and everyone pitched in to buy us a mobile home. They placed it on the land that was previously adorned with our house. We lived there, all 7 of us, for a couple of years until my parents purchased a new home closer to where my dad worked.
When I returned to school, I walked into my classroom and was greeted by compassion and empathy. My desk was surrounded by bags full of toys and clothes. Everyone had pitched in to give us anything they could. Everyone was eager to help.
I remember standing there in shock and unable to move. I was so overwhelmed that I burst into tears. I was surrounded and attacked with hugs. It was my first lesson for a lot of things. Compassion, empathy, sympathy, sorrow, loss, unity, sincere thankfulness…and hope.
The remaining ruble of what once was our home became a playground for us. We would climb the bits of brick and shout from atop the aftermath of an event that had surely caused my parents great heartache.
To us, the ruble and brick was a castle. A great prop to an imaginary kingdom. We could be princesses in that castle. We could be kings. We could be strong, brave knights.
The bit of aftermath was a great fortress too. We could hide from our imaginary enemies. We could climb to the highest part of the fortress and proclaim that we had conquered it. We could state that we had won.
With the bits of the aftermath, we could be anything. As long as we could dream and laugh and play.
Time later concealed the remains of those bits of aftermath. Eventually, grass and earth covered the ruble and created a small hill. The slate of land was clean and fresh again. Renewed for a new beginning.
I hope to never forget that.