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We each had some clothes when we left our home on that fateful afternoon of June 28, 2012. When we were packing to evacuate because of the wildfire in our valley I chose thoughtfully. I packed some hang-out clothes, some regular day clothes and a nice shirt and slacks for my spouse and a skirt and blouse for me. On that day we closed out what my Mom thinks of as the pre-fire era.

Looking back I was clearly assuming we would not ever be home again but I don’t know what I thought that meant. I was being practical, even considering the loss of the house as a factor in an equation of getting us safely from the house. I made sure we had our passports, food, water and some clothes. My spouse rescued all of our computers. It was not until we were pulling out of the driveway that I knew we were going to lose the house and it seemed very unpractical at that point. I was scared. The fire was roaring our way and I wanted out.

We made it out and the house did burn. We had our few clothes but to participate in the genera consumer economy of the US we needed more. The first month I shopped the bargains for a small but complete wardrobe for my spouse. I shopped the bottom of the bargain bins for me. I ended up with some strange things. There is a reason things go half price and then 30% off of half off. It is almost always related to the number of items left at the end of the season. The number of items left is related to having misjudged the market for a particular item or having misjudged the item. When there are more simply because not all the people they guessed would want one wanted one the bottom of the barrel is fine. If there are too many because no one wanted one that is an entirely different story.

I ended up with some of each of the latter. About nine months into that time between the pre-fire home and our soon to be completed post fire home, we decided we were going to have to be brave and step out and take a vacation. We were slated for one a couple of weeks after the fire but could not do it. We debated back and forth for months. Then I found a beautiful ball gown majorly on sale. I never had a ball gown and always wanted one. The only place we know to wear ball gowns is on a cruise.

We had been on three cruises before. On those cruises I had occasion to wear a ball gown but did not have one. Now I had money from the insurance to buy one and I had a good choice in front of me for $79 with free shipping. It was marked down from $350. We decided to go on a cruise so I could wear a ball gown.

I found some used Ferragao shoes on ebay and rescued from the fire a very beautiful 1950s white and sapphire rhinestone necklace and earring set. I would be beautiful. I had not felt beautiful very much after the fire. Somehow the ash followed me sucking me dry of my usual vivaciousness.

My spouse was the same way. He is well known for being a “clothes horse” since he has the sort of style that allows him to pull off so many looks. He is not really a clothes horse, his clothes are all from the bargain bin and his collection of clothes was well aged, some of it harking back 20 years but he has an special sense of style. Looking at his style, I could see that he too had lost some of his luster.

If he wore his tux and I wore my ball gown we would be like we had been in the pre fire era when we were surer of ourselves in the world.

We went on the cruise and he did indeed look dapper and handsome I did indeed look radiant and beautiful. We stood out in a good way. People talked to us and they complemented us on our clothes and were interested in hearing about who we were. It felt good. We did not show off but the “presence” that the fire had eaten from us was back.

Today, our mom is home from the hospital and while tired is better. The frightening events of last weekend have faded. We now have our need to tell her to rest and her need to tell us she has rested already. For now we are in a post-health scare era. It is like we are standing in a book with the left side being that which has been read and the right side of the book containing what is not yet read.

Tonight Mom and I were talking about the fire and got around to talking about my ball gown. She had seen my pre-fire era evening clothes since we had come from a cruise to her house once. Tonight she asked me what my ball gown looked like and I was at a loss to explain how a shirtwaist dress was a ball gown. I finally found a photo of it in this blog. She asked me about my other evening clothes. I could remember that I had them but I could not remember what they looked like or how many I had. ladies ball gown in silk shirtwaste style with full skirt ink blue

One of the difficulties we are having is remembering and understanding what we do have. We lost everything we had in our pre-fire era. Between September of 2012 and July of 2013 we got some new stuff. In August of 2013 we packed it all away. We literally do not know what we own. I don’t know if I have ball gowns and nothing decent to wear to a meeting. I think I have both but in that early post-fire era sometimes what I wore as my “good clothes” were things that were “the best I had under the circumstances.”

Before my spouse went to Brimfield I had done what we jokingly call dumpster diving for clothes. The moving wardrobes are pushed against the wall on one side of the warehouse. In front of them is a couch with our very large Persian rugs rolled up and laid across it. On top of that is my office chair with its base without its wheels. To get to the clothes you have do sprawl our across the rugs, avoid the chair and lean over into the boxes. I don’t usually try to do this since I tend to be a little “tippey” in the bodily organization department but I was desperate. As I leaned over and peered into the wardrobes I was looking at uncharted waters. I did not know whose was whose and a lot of the stuff looked totally unfamiliar to me. I did find my ball gown which is why my Mom and I were talking bout it tonight. I felt like a freshman in History class who was completely overwhelmed by trying to understand the eras of historical events.

Mom taught us to organize our memories into eras. It is very useful and gives us  sense of our own personal history. These days we get our eras mixed up. Part of it is because we have our very own inter-testiment period  like the 400 year gap between the Judeo-Christian Old testament and the Christian New Testament. What is particularly interesting to me is that during that “400 years of silence” the wisdom literature continued to be written but very little of it is currently recognized much less canonized as officially the Bible.

Our time is like that those 400 years of silence that were anything but silent. We continued to learn things, and I hope things that imparted some sort of wisdom, but they are lost to history. What happened between then and now has eras I can organize in my mind. What I cannot do is remember exactly what belongs to which era.

When we finally unpack our possessions in this new house of ours and officially begin a new era, I don’t know if we can organize things into their proper eras. I don’t know if we will ever be able to have the clarity to understand, even if we can remember, what happened in our two year intertestimenal period. I think it belongs to the fire. I think it is OK that it belongs to the fire. We can sort by what is useful and what is true. We do not need to sort by when it happened during these two years between being home and being home.