As much as I would like this column to be all upbeat and festive, I can’t do what I don’t feel. All this week my thoughts have been on the raging fires in Southern California and concern for loved ones who live there — and everyone else who may no longer have a home.
As I write this, family members in Santa Barbara have evacuated. My granddaughter, Autumn, and her family had to leave their home because the air is so foul with smoke and ash they had trouble breathing. They moved in with my daughter, Rocki, and her husband, Glen. They can see smoke and fire from Camarillo, but so far they are OK. Only God knows where the Santa Ana winds will blow the fires next.
If you have been wiped out by a disaster, then you know how it feels. I once lived in a Los Angeles community known as Bel Air, and one horrible morning in November of 1961, a raging fire, driven by the hot Santa winds, swept through and destroyed 500 homes, including ours. It’s painful enough to lose precious keepsakes, but my dogs died in that fire. My daughter was only two-and-a-half years old and was confused as to what happened to her familiar home and the absence of “her dogs.” Somehow the cat managed to outrun the fire, cross two freeways and end up in a Santa Monica animal shelter. His feet were burned, his fur was singed and his whiskers gone, but with a ton of TLC, he lived to be 18. No one was home the day of that fire. Rocki was with me miles away as I managed her dad’s pediatric practice. By the time a patient mentioned the fire, every house on our street was gone.
Many people, like us, moved back onto their properties in temporary mobile homes while deciding what to do. When a disaster like this strikes, you hardly know where to begin in picking up the pieces of your life. You are in shock, sadness and disbelief.
I learned some important lessons from that miserable time — if a relationship is solid and strong, and you are hit with a disaster of any kind, you draw closer together. But if the marriage is on shaky ground, then it’s only a matter of time until you realize you have to make a new beginning. I also learned to no longer be attached to possessions — my business card has this quote: “The most important things in life aren’t things.”
For those of us here on the Oregon coast, we are often reminded of earthquakes and tsunamis and the need to be prepared. This goes for readers in tornado and hurricane areas, too. We need to take these warnings seriously.
I have never forgotten some of the stories told by neighbors after the Bel Air fire. Many people were home that morning. The lady next door called her husband at his Beverly Hills office when she saw flames coming over the hill. He told her to get their important papers and specific valuables and leave immediately. In her panic, she grabbed a pair of his shoes and a lamp, which she threw into the trunk of her car – along with her keys. She escaped in a passing car and her car burned to a hulk in their driveway. A mother on our street with five children hurried them into her station wagon and drove down the hill, leaving a toddler sitting on the steps clutching a storybook. We never knew who drove by and rescued that child.
My point today is to encourage you to have a plan. This past week I have continually heard California friends refer to “The 6 P’s.” Here they are in case you want to hang these valuable tips on a wall:
The 6 P’s
Sorry if this column bummed you out. Next week I promise to lighten up. My granddaughter, Autumn, has asked for prayers, and I am specifically praying her Santa Barbara home will be spared. I can’t bear to think of my great grandson, Lennox, being a confused little person just as his grandmother was so many years ago.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor” (Dancing Moon Press). The book (with all proceeds going to Rotary International) is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]