Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The "No Burn Bag"

Last week in Oklahoma felt longer than seven days.  After record breaking extreme heat with temperatures exceeding 100, the wind did its prairie thing and wildfires surrounded our town.  The vigil of news watching, checking on friends, and collecting stories began like other recent disasters: The tsunami, hurricanes, and tornadoes.  Kate (my high school senior) sat with a friend who was not allowed to return to her neighborhood most of Wednesday evening because of the proximity to burning homes.  Thursday the threat of wildfire burned into my every moment awareness.  The morning news informed us that the stretch of property across the highway was evacuated and on alert for “hot spots.”
Fire in our friend's neighborhood

 Faced with the awareness that Sal would be out of the house most of the day, Kate at school, and me at work I looked around at our belongings and decided to pack a “no burn bag” to bring with me.  With 15 minutes before I needed to leave for the day I canvassed rooms to fill the bag with the most important stuff. 
Going through the motions of preparing to leave increased my anxiety.  It reminded me of CPR training when part of you realizes that it is just practice, but on some level the reality of the responsibility is logged in your adrenalin.  I informed Kate of my project and asked her to go into her room to select her precious items. 
I panicked in Lindsay’s room.  It was 9 in the morning and away at college she understandably did not answer her cell phone. I considered her art work, but which ones?   I decided on two of her blown glass pieces.  They were small and I reasoned that if I picked the wrong thing she would at least appreciate the effort.
Kate was waiting in the hallway.  She handed me one thing--her “Grammie blanket.”  Kate said she looked around and asked herself “what can’t be replaced?  All the rest was just stuff. "
Grammie was my mother’s mother and a pivotal figure in my life.  She crocheted a baby sized blanket for each of my girls while I was pregnant with them. Grammie died when Kate was three and Lindsay was seven.  I reminisce aloud about Grammie on a regular basis. I had tucked two photos of her already in the bag.
Suki came to work (even though it wasn’t her usual day) and I kept the bag in my trunk.  I felt some relief knowing that my family was safe and the most valuable “stuff” was ready if I couldn’t return home.   

Later that evening the wild fires were under control.  The evacuees returned to their neighborhoods, the wind died down and news switched to the ordinary.  I finally heard back from the college kid. Nine hours away she was blissfully unaware of the fire dangers.  When I told her about “the no burn bag” she reflected for a moment and asked what I picked from her room.
“Did I pick the right thing?” I asked
“Well, actually the only thing that came to my mind was my Grammie blanket.”  
The rest is just stuff.
What would you pack in your “No Burn Bag?”

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