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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What I Think About Late at Night

When I was about six or seven, my parents were tarring the basement walls to waterproof them in preparation for making a playspace for us. My mother accidentally kicked over the little burner they were using to keep the tar soft, and the whole wall went up in flames. (Don't ask me why they chose tar instead of some kind of water-barrier paint, or why they were handling such hazardous materials themselves; this was the 1970s.) Long story short, although I refused to believe taunting Tommy Lewis when he sing-songed that the fire engines were at my house and my house was on fire, he turned out to be right.

Everything was fine. But shortly after that, our parents sat us down and asked us to think very carefully about what we would grab to take out of the house with us if we were ever caught inside during a fire. The rule was that we could only pick ONE thing. We had to decide what it was, and tell what it was, and promise that if there were ever a fire, we would grab that ONE thing, and then get out of the house as fast as possible.

In retrospect, I think this is quite a brilliant idea of my parents'. The panic of trying to save everything has no doubt trapped some people in burning buildings before.

And so, every time I move to a new place, I find myself thinking about what exactly I would save, where that thing is, and how I would get it out. Normally this train of thought occurs to me just as I'm trying to fall asleep but can't, and I lie awake planning escape routes that include the shortest distance between all the things I MUST save. At one time or another in my life, the things I would rescue have included the box of letters from my English boyfriend, the disks/laptop containing my dissertation, or the photo albums of my childhood.

Now that I have kids, it's a no-brainer, of course, that my first priority would be getting them out. After them (I'm assuming Husband is able to get himself out), the next priority is Dog. And since she weighs 80 pounds, this is no small feat. Trust me when I say that I have already figured out the complex harness made of bed sheets that I would rig up to winch her out the second-story window, were that necessary. (Yes, again, I am always in bed while planning these things, and hence hatching nighttime escape routes as well.)

BUT assuming that I was home alone, or all the humans and pets were already safe, there's always lingering in the back of my mind: what STUFF would I save? I need to know the answer to this because it was impressed upon me as such a serious question for such a long time. Here's what I'd grab:

* My great-grandmother's filigree ring. It's a lovely piece that has been worn by four generations of women in my family (including me), and that I will someday give to Daughter. Though I have seen similar ones in many an antique shop, I would be crushed to lose it due to the memories it holds. I wear it whenever I'm facing a particularly difficult task, as a sort of good luck talisman, and I always wear it on the first day of school each term, as a personal charm for a good semester. (Note to potential thieves: it's not worth a lot of money, just has sentimental value, so don't bother.)
* The quilt Husband and I received for our wedding. MIQuilter (my middle sister, quilter extraordinnaire) had the brilliant idea to send everyone who had been invited to the wedding a pattern and directions for making a quilt square in the Wedding Ring pattern. Those who chose to participate made one square each and sent them to our mother, who assembled the whole quilt, added necessary interspersing pieces, and had it quilted. They surprised Husband and I with the quilt the night before our wedding. Everyone signed their square of the quilt, and every time I look at it, I think of the love that surrounded us on that day when we took our vows in a little room filled with all the people to whom we felt closest in the world.
* Boring alert: my laptop. I do my best to back things up, but I don't do it often enough. My research, book manuscript, photos, so many things are on that hard-drive. But since this is a lot of things to grab, and since many other things besides fire can destroy a laptop, I have to learn to be better at the whole backing up thing.

Now, here's the part in the post where I would normally just ask you what you would grab, curious as I am about the things people value most in their lives. But, freaky alert!, although I started writing this post last Friday, MommyPie posted this exact question on her blog Saturday morning. Exactly. She asked her Doogs what TWO things (she's more generous than my parents were) people would save when exiting their homes during a fire. She was curious. Apparently, MommyPie and I are currently sharing a brain. Because, seriously, I'd already written the whole "my parents tarred the basement..." bit by the time I'd read her post. But because she is an incredibly generous soul, she chose to believe me when I told her that. And she was classy enough to email me to say that she really wouldn't mind if I put up my post with the exact same question in it that she'd just asked her readers. And she even told me that she sort of believes in ESP. Which? SO. DO. I. This would prove that we have the same brain, if only she weren't so much funnier than I am.

So, anyway, here I am with my post that totally looks like a copycat post, even though I promise it isn't, wondering: if you have only ONE pass through the house to grab something(s) important before you bolt out the door, and your children and other loved ones are already safe outside. What would you fill your arms with? And why? And just to make this fun: let's assume that for reasons unexplainable, your laptop/hard drive is already safe because we all know that we're a computer-reliant lot. What else REALLY matters to you?


Lisa said...

The box of photos that I took before I had a digital camera, with the albums created from pre-digital pictures, because once they are gone; I could never get them replaced.

I don't own much else that couldn't be replaced if it needed to be.

I do own the grand piano that was my great-grandmother's wedding present, and I would be extremely sad to lose it. But it doesn't really apply to this fire question because it is not in my possession now, since it doesn't fit in our apartment. And even when I can fit it in our living space, there is no way I could walk out the door with it.

The Roaming Southerner said...

I don't own alot of irreplaceable things and all of the priceless memories my mom keeps back ups: no seriously. She has a replica of my wedding album, college pics, baby blankets, quilts, etc: Still this would be my first instinct...

My computer-because I never back anything up, EVER...but that is why I have a blog so something remains if the house burns down (because I will totally need that picture of me in my 50's dress, right?)

My baby blanket-I still have it, would be really sad to see it gone

Oh, and a mosaic of pictures that my hubs made for our first Christmas together. Although, I think his mom has a copy...cause she thinks of things like that.

Juli said...

Oh, good question. I'm going to think about it and I'll blog later!

Marcy - The Glamorous Life! said...

By the time I was 23 all my grandparents had died-and I inherited a lot of amazing things I cherished. Then it happened. I left on a business trip and returned to a ransacked home. Everything was gone. Everything. (they even took my clothes)...so I have very little left of family value. But I deciced to be prepared for another disaster like a fire and I have a set of antique suitcases which are stacked next to a sofa outside my bedroom door (like an end table) and in those are the scrapbooks I made for my kids until age 3 (when I wised up and went digital with it), my back up DVDs (which reminds me it is time to do again)which are replaced every 6 months, and an odd assortment of memories including a little football jersey my son wore everyday he could when he was 2. I throw about 2 things a year in the suitcase like that. A letter. A ticket stub. Sometimes I take stuff out too- if it no longer holds the 'magic' for me. So incase of a fire...I can just grab the suitcases and go.

Momo Fali said...

My wedding video (footage contains a lot of family members who have since passed) and as many pictures as I could grab!

zoeyjane said...

I would my father's ashes. Cuz anything else, I could buy or remember, but him...I'd need him.

lattemommy said...

I have to confess that I have never given this question much thought. Can I assume that I will grab my purse? Because I've had to replace all my personal identification before, and it's not fun.

Assuming that... I think I would grab my wedding photos. I have no other copy of them, and I'd never be able to replace them. (I'd love to say that I'd grab the beautiful professional portraits I had done of my children when they were babies, but, um.... I never quite got around to that. I suck.)

LceeL said...

The TV remotes.

Aimeepalooza said...

I would save my pictures and my box of kids school/art work that I've been saving since they first held crayon to paper.

Amy said...

Wow, that is a great question and one I haven't really thought about before. But I would probably scoop up the photo albums from my childhood since my dad is gone, that's all I have left of him. And the afghan my great-grandmother knitted for me when I was born.

Adcock Circus said...

Great Post! 1st time lurker..
It is simple for me, since neither of my parents are living I would take my pictures of them so that my boys would have it in the future.

MIQuilter said...

I LOVE "marcy - the glamorous life"s solution - genius! Me? not nearly that organized. I'd grab my purse (it has my computer backup in it and everything else i need in "life") and then probably my photo albums - starting with the wedding album.

All Adither said...

Laptop for sure.

Asianmommy said...

Honestly, all I would want is my kids and my purse. Everything else is just stuff. I might need to go wake up my husband, though. He's a deep sleeper. :)

JackeeG4glamorous said...

You know those collage type picture frames? Those were made with the intent that if your house were burning to the ground, and you could go back for one more thing, grab it too on your way out the door. Yeah, technically that would be two things, but your pictures all done up in a frame? FREE PASS as you exit!
So, go ahead and take your grandma's ring - and your photo collage with the kids baby pictures in it. There will be no consequences.

MultiplesMommy said...

At the risk of sounding materialistic, I think I'd grab my jewelry box. It has all the jewelry my hubby every gave me, which are all things to mark really special occasions, as well as some things that were my mom's, my grandmother's, my great uncle's pocket watch and ear rings that belonged to Husband's grandmother. Lot of sentiment in that box, all of it irreplaceable. Haven't thought about this in years!

mommypie said...

Seriously ... I'm convinced we TOTALLY had a brain-share day.

Assuming all the home movies were still on the laptop, I'd grab the embarrassingly HUGE Sears-Photoshopped-to-look-like-a-fancy-painting of my daughter the week she turned one. I'm the first to admit it's a little tacky. But I adore it. It hangs in my bedroom and I look at that sweet face on the wall each night before turning out the light.

Awesome post. Ya Copycat.

Heh heh. :)

Auds at Barking Mad said...

Although it pains me to know that hundreds, possibly thousands of my books are burning - even my precious first edition LM Montgomery books, I would have to grab a little safe box we have which holds everything near and dear to us. It holds my nightly back-up of my computer (and the 25K plus photos on it), passports, birth certificates and every other single precious piece of paper or jewelry that means something to us. It also contains a few special momentos that my late father in law left for my hubby. So yeah, even though it claims to be fireproof to a certain degree, it's going.

I have to admit, I'm not sitting here thinking about how we're going to get our 70+ pound puppy out of the house and two cats...should the unthinkable happen.

As for the partridge in the pear tree. Well, I suppose I'll shed a tear, but he kinda creeps me out anyhow.

lauren said...

since i live in a condo building with some often-drunk-fire-alarm-pulling-coeds, i've had to think about this. grab the baby and the external harddrive. it has all our banking backups, all our digital photos going back about 5 years, etc.
less importantly, but very practially... a blanket (cuz who knows how long you'll have to wait around) and the keys for the car so we can stay warm or cool and get to a friend's house for some support.

MommyTime said...

Marcy, that is a completely brilliant suggestion, and I think I'll have to figure out how to do that too.

Photos, which so many of you mention, are a great choice that I'll have to think about how to manage (store my albums in my new antique suitcases?)

Roaming Southerner and Lauren, thanks for chiming in.

Adcock Circus! Big shout out to a new commenter. So nice to have you here. I look forward to getting to know you.

Red Flashlight said...

Cell phone, ftw.


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