It is now 209 days since the fire. Yesterday it seemed very far away. Today it seems very close. Both things are true. It is very far away but things, little things, bring it close.
We don’t think about the fire every day. I still am in limbo waiting to re-start my life. It is hard to truly understand that it is restarted, or that it just went on. It is my life so it did not restart. The fire was an event on a timeline that is my life. It is a dramatic event and I am not trying to belittle it but thinking of it as discrete from me, as something that I have to start over from, reduces the value of all of my experiences. No matter how huge the impact of the fire is, it does not have the power to negate my life before or since the fire.
So, it is close and it is far. It is close because it belongs in my timeline and it was only 209 days ago. It is far because it was 209 days ago and I have largely found ways to live my life in my pre-fire ways. My habits are securely locked in place. We grasp for normalcy and part of that is doing things just like you always have.
We always use miss-matched dishes. Before and after the fire we chose to purchase dishes that could be mixed and matched even though theoretically they were mismatched. In the years before the fire we always had just the right sized bowl for the food we were eating. We had not always had that luxury. At one point we had one dinner plate and a bread plate and we swapped around who got the full sized plate. Having specific bowls for specific tasks of eating is a luxury that was endowed on us by my grandmother and my mother dying and leaving us some dishes.
We got used to the specific dishes for specific foods. These days when we reach for a size bowl that is not among our things any more we don’t associate it with the fire. It is not like we lost everything and are now just drifting about. I open the cabinet, what I want is not there and that is what it means–it just is not there.
The size bowls we keep reaching for are those that dwarf your cereal but are perfect for a one-bowl meal. We use them to put soup in when you only want to fill the bowl 1/2 to 2/3s because you don’t want to spill the soup. I went to Amazon and placed an order thinking I had ordered these one-bowl-meal sized bowls and ended up with four more of of exactly what we had, not larger ones. Now we have 8 cereal bowls and no soup bowls. The new bowls have found a place in the cabinet but they are not what we expected nor what we sought out.
I think the bowls are a good metaphor for us these days. Sometimes we have what we need or what we want. When we think of something we don’t have, the not having it is not first associated with the fire. It is associated with what is going on. What is the task? Why do we expect or need this this thing? Sometimes the answer is we don’t really need it or even want it. Other times the answer is that it was a good fit for your life and you were privileged to have it before the fire and you are privileged to have it after the fire.
So, the fire is far and it is close. More than that, it is a backdrop; a backdrop that does not interfere with nor negate our life from before the fire. I have a feeling it will be like that for the rest of our lives even after we speak of it happening in years rather than in days. I suppose we will never truly know the fire. The best we can do is to understand the fire through through things like our cereal bowls.