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We bought huge steaks yesterday since they were on sale and decided to have a barbeque celebration-send off dinner for my spouse who is going on an important trip tomorrow. We forgot about the part where it was going to snow today. And, we forgot about the part where our grill burned in the wildfire in June 2012 so we don’t have a barbeque grill.tiny charcole grill sitting on three quarter inch plywood on ground with woman holding grill rack with huge steak. The woman has on yellow mud boots. We have not been at our home as the summer started since the fire so we had not processed not having a grill. It was yet another “first time since the fire” experience.

Not to be deterred when we split for our Saturday chores my spouse drew laundromat / find grill duty and I drew the find sleeping bag, pads and clothes duty. We were both successful. My spouse found  $3.99 charcoal grill at the grocery store across from the laundromat. I dug through the warehouse with purpose. I found what I was looking for too.

I was looking for the new camping gear I bought after the fire to replace ours that burned. When I was shopping I picked things that were for my spouse’s annual antiques dealer’s trip to the Brimfield Antiques Show in Brimfield, MA. My spouse, who is an antiques dealer and retired university history professor, goes to sell his antiques at the Brimfield every May. Each year for over a decade there is a week in May overtaken by digging around to find the right things to take to Brimfield. The weather can be hot or cold or both, it can be wet or dry or all of the above. If memory serves one year it even snowed. He always ended up with left over camping gear parts that never quite fit into his luggage well and that too did not work all that well. He flies to Salt Lake City then to Boston then takes a bus to near where is business partner lives further north in New England. They then pack and go south to Massachusetts for the show. It reverses a few days later. Massachusetts to northern New England to Boston, to Salt Lake to Idaho in the past and now to Montana. It is not an easy journey if you have misbehaving luggage.

So when the fire burned all of our possessions long with our house, I picked new camping gear that included things I hoped were just right for Brimfield. I wanted to anticipate his annual May worries about his equipment so he could focus on the important things like seeing his fellow dealers and enjoying their company as they sold their wares to the buyers who wander around the open air markets.

“Brimfields” is arguably the most famous antiques shows in the world. According to Brimfieldantiques.org:

The Brimfield Antiques Show began in the 1950’s and has become the largest and best-known outdoor antiques show in the country. Running along Rt. 20 for a distance of perhaps a half-mile and perhaps 500′ or more, back on each side of the highway, the Brimfield Show is a huge, vast undertaking, filled with thousands of dealers dealers over the course of the week….[Brimfield  population of 3,000] balloons to over 250,000 visitors and over 5,000 dealers for the 6 days the Show operates. The Show has a carnival-like atmosphere, appropriate for all ages, where good vibes prevail, (and few, if any problems ever present themselves).

Dealers come from all over the world as do visitors. From millionaire world-famous rock stars and movie stars to the local resident from down the street, the Show is a Mecca for serious and casual collectors of all kinds of antiques.

There are about 20 different fields that open for different days and at different times. Some of the fields open at sunrise. Some open at 9 with the others anywhere in between. Some fields have cover charges for pre-shows before the gates open for general entry. Others don’t. There is no set organization to how the fields operate in regard to which fields are open on which days

…there is no overall Town “management” committee for the Show –each promoter sets his or her own exhibition schedule. As the late Bob Brown, publisher of the Brimfield Antique Guide liked to say, “It all works entirely by accident.

My spouse shares a large display tent with several dealers. Some of them make all three of the Brimfield shows, May, July and September. He usually goes for the May show. At night they drop the walls of the sales tent and camp out in the tent with their goods. With the advent of wireless carrier email, I usually get an email with photos and narrative of the day’s events. In addition to selling his antiques, he “picks” antiques. He and the other dealers in his tent take turns wandering around the shows looking for things to buy for their inventory. Sometimes the inventory my spouse picks is for me. Over the years he brought me beautiful antique tin biscuit cutters of all shapes and sizes.

When I returned from the warehouse with my treasures eager to share them with him, I pondered why he had not used them yet. It has been two years since the fire but certainly he would not have missed two years of Brimfield. I remembered last year that we decided it was not the right thing to do to go but I did not remember another year. We figured out that he only missed one year, last summer, 2013, because the fire happened soon after he returned from the 2012 fire. It is for this reason that I was sharing the carefully thought through treasures for his trip nearly two years after I bought them for him.

Even after two years we are still dealing with “we have not done this since the fire” events. Sometimes they don’t matter but other times they include that momentary gut-suck that places you feet first back into the ashes of that Saturday when we stood where our house had been surveying the ashes of our lives. I did not want this to be one of those times. I wanted Brimfield to be joyous. It is important and it is a tradition that has continued for this group of dealers over the years around births and deaths, sickness, weddings, and flood, and now fire.

I eagerly lugged a big suitcase and a duffel bag and my brown sewing box up from where I parked the car below the log jam of log siding surrounding the house. I had found all of the camping gear. I brought my sewing box in case anything needed to be mended. I had crawled around in the warehouse looking for his clothes that survived the fire that were also ones he had taken to Brimfield (I found one shirt) and the replacement clothes I had bought that were like the ones he had liked to take to Brimfield.

It was important to me that this not feel like one more “have not done it since the fire” things that have an unreal quality to them. After two years I think it is time we should be able to stop having those experiences. I know I am being protective, maybe even a bit over-protective but it has been my job these past two years to try to keep the household as much like what we knew as I could. It was my job to “get us back on an even keel” with our stuff and how our stuff interacts with our feelings. For months after the fire it was a constant job that often overwhelmed me to the point that I needed help from my spouse or my sister or fiends to remind me that it was not going to be all normal immediately or even after a while. With the reminder came the reassurance that being in upheaval was normal for the situation we were in. I tried to keep their support and admonitions close to my heart and mind but sometimes it was taken over by my need to make things OK again even when that need was fire-wrought.

It was interesting today to dig through looking for the things I selected for his Brimfield trips. There was no fire-sadness, just a sense of adventure and happiness that I was able to do this for my spouse. The items I sought were selected based on what I watched him have to do to pack over the years and on what he had told me about the weather. I watched him trying to shove one of our good quality but old and bulky sleeping bags into his luggage. He crawled around on the floor squeezing every tiny bit or air out of the sleeping pad so he could get it to smush into the bag. His clothes did not layer as best as they could and his shoes were bulky. His sleeping bag was too cold or too hot. Tonight I pulled out two stackable sleeping pads that packed down smaller than his old single pad. I showed him his adjustable 25 to 60 degree sleeping system made up of a sleeping bag top and a down sleeping pad sheet/cover. You can have a down blanket on top of a down sheet, a sleeping bag attached to the down sheet and if it is really cold, two layers of down over the top. All of the down bedding parts packed into a ball about 1/2 the size of the old sleeping bag.

I pulled out of my booty of clothes from the warehouse. It was like a trip down memory lane backwards. We have learned that it is easy to forget what we have. Since everything was new and most of our stuff has been in and out of various storage, we just don’t know what we have. Most of these emerging summer clothes he had for a few weeks in Idaho before they were packed in August for the move to Montana. Today though, I remembered what I was looking for. I remembered because each article of clothing was bought with this trip in mind. When I shopped I thought, “that would be useful for the Brimfield trip.”

So tonight he is sleeping awaiting the alarm at 5:30 am that will remind him to get up to catch his early flight and I am finishing this blog. Both of us are satisfied with what he is taking to Brimfield. What may be the last round of “first time since the fire” experiences is going to go well.