Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankfulness, after the fire

photo from Cambridge Chronicle

Of course I'm thankful for the usual things, which are no less important for being usual: the love of my honey, the excellence of our cat, the support and love of my family, privileges and gifts, education, job, paycheck, safety, health. Among other things.

Still, much of my life this fall has been shadowed by the effects of our apartment building's fire. I never noticed how many fires there are in a city, until we were displaced by the fire in our apartment. So, now I don't pass by articles about fires, but instead read them with a little knot of sadness and dread, vividly imagining what they describe: recently a large fire destroyed everything for many residents of a nearby neighborhood--a much worse outcome than we had, given that we only lost our home but not most of our belongings. (Water damage made us homeless, not the flames themselves.)

Earlier today, while I was still at work, a fellow resident was looking for her stethoscope and smelled one that looked like hers. "What are you doing?" another resident asked her. She said, "Mine looks just like this but it smells like barbeque because it was one of the only things that survived the fire." When we had our fire, she told me about hers; she had lost almost everything. I hope she finds her stethoscope soon.

Someone else I know had her house burned down by a lightning strike; she's still waiting for it to be rebuilt. Of course, each of our experiences was different; still, like any little club of survivors, we feel alone in what we've experienced, and relieved to find others who have some understanding of what we feel.

Today I'm thankful for what was not lost in the fire: our lives, our health, most of our things. Thankful that it was not worse. But this is a refugee's thankfulness, an it-could-have-been-worse relief tinged with the sometimes angry, sometimes bitter, sometimes just sad knowledge that it certainly could have been a lot better.

This week, we received an organic turkey we'd ordered a long time ago from the farmer's market. Getting the turkey was an adventure, including waiting all evening two nights in a row for the turkey farmer to bring the turkey to us, With some kind of non-functioning email confirmation system and orders written on the back of envelopes, he'd unsurprisingly run out by the time I got to the farmer's market to pick up the one we'd ordered, then was driving around the city with a broken GPS system and a borrowed cell phone, with his wife at the farm reassuring me he would surely be coming very soon. One more thing to be thankful for: I'm not a turkey farmer. Anyway, after we'd ordered the turkey but long before it was delivered, we'd decided that with our schedules and the limits of the apartment we're subletting now, it wouldn't work to cook Thanksgiving dinner. So we have a turkey but not a Thanksgiving turkey. (We're going out for dinner.)

That's OK. We're soon to sign a lease for a new apartment, starting in the first week of the new year if all goes well. I think once we have a real home again, we will feel more thankful. We'll be thankful for things that we are gaining, and not for things that we didn't lose. We're going to keep the turkey in the freezer; like other more important things, getting this turkey was harder than it probably should have been. We'll eat the turkey in our new home, when we're feeling thankful in a new way: in this way, among others, part of Thanksgiving will come late this year.


Justin said...

You're already a month behind - Thanksgiving was in October.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about what happened to your apartment. Thank you for sharing your story, it makes me much more thankful for what the things that I do have. My heart goes out to you and your family, and others who might have lost things in their lives.