Preparing for a house aflame
My friend Jack arrived at my house a few weeks ago, stating flatly:”My house is on fire.””What?””My house is on fire.””What?””What about ‘My house is on fire’ don’t you understand?”Of course what I didn’t understand was why, if his house were on fire, he was sitting at my kitchen table – this turned out to be shock. A police officer had pounded on the door of his Mine Dumps apartment saying, “FIRE! Get Out!” and Jack had dropped his book and run outside to see his storage apartment upstairs engulfed in flames.Knowing that the whole place was something of a fire trap, Jack assumed that he had lost everything down to his credit card and car keys and, not wanting to watch it, came over to my place.When the smoke cleared, so to speak, it was not a total loss. Everything in his downstairs apartment was water logged and reeking of smoke and almost everything in the storage apartment was burned to a crisp, but even there, unscathed treasures were salvaged: curled photographs, a straw boater hat and an old family quilt not even singed.With fire prominently on all of our minds this dry summer, Jack’s fire brought it even closer to home. While he was washing garbage bags full of sopping, smoky clothes and linens, I was filling out a questionnaire from my homeowners insurance company, which had been sitting for months in a Pile of Papers.I checked my fire extinguishers, which I would have sworn were up to date, only to find they had been refilled in 1994 – off to the Miner’s Building for that and one for the car as well, because you never know.My mother put the fire fear on us because her family home had suddenly burned to the ground. She said she knew it was bad when my grandmother, saving the car, drove right over her lovingly-tended flower beds.I had been in a forest fire and the Great Alaskan Earthquake, and I’ve always had it in my mind to put all of my most treasured possessions (such as they are, mainly books, photographs and correspondence) in one place for quick removal, but never did it. Now maybe I’ll do it.One of the worst things about a home fire is having to sift through the ashes, revisiting the chapters of your past in the process as you peel through old letters and pictures. I left a chunk of my past on a homestead in Alaska (now also burned), but if I could have opened a magic door I don’t know if I could handle seeing that stuff again.Put your treasures in one room, so maybe you can get them out if disaster strikes. If it all goes, that’s that, but if just the rest of it goes, good riddance.Su Lum is a longtime local who needs a deep clean. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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