Fire Sale

If your house was on fire and you could carry one thing out of it with you, what would it be? A question like that has been asked for ages. In philosophy classes, on psych papers, over drinks at happy hour, in bible groups, at marriage counseling. It should be getting easier to answer. Or maybe not.

When asked the question, in public the answers all sound very altruistic. My baby. My pet. The picture of my long dead parents, long suffering spouse, long loved child. In private we’d probably say, grab the tablet, CD, or memory stick with all our family financial info and maybe the one with pictures too if possible, or the purse or wallet with driverโ€™s license and the credit cards because who wants that replacement hassle right after the house burns down. No! Get the phone!

I really was thinking about this recently. If I could save just one thing, what one thing would I want above all that I may risk my life to get?

My grandparents might have had a really hard time answering. Both trunks of my family tree started their branches in this country during World War I. Although not yet the depression Era as far as the United States was concerned, the European bank scare of 1914 had a dramatic effect on the Italian economy and its people. When they emigrated they took their distrust for banks with them. If it was of value, it was in the house. A fire would be devastating to the future of the family unless all of the children, 12 on my mother’s side, were old enough, big enough, and strong enough to each bring at least one item with no room for sentiment.

By the time my parents were contributing boomed babies to the landscape, the American economy was on an upswing and even middle class families had nest eggs that could be proudly secured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Up to $10,000 per depositor at the time. Like now though, nobody but the very rich had $10,000 nest eggs. But they still didn’t trust everything to the banks. Safety deposit boxes were for rich people. Personal treasures and savings bonds purchased almost painlessly through the Payroll Savings Plan were secreted in a strong box, itself cached away at the back of a linen drawer, the bottom of a cedar chest or top shelf of a closet, or among the pantry items in the newfangled built-in kitchen cabinets. In case of evacuation, a responsible adult, probably the dad, was in charge of collecting the canned collectibles, while another adult of authority went after more sentimental treasures.

My generation was the tween of generations. Everything from the first half of my life is on paper, the last 2 or 3 decades could and does fit easily on a flash drive. I have a strong box but other than my passport almost nothing in there is irreplaceable. Almost nothing else in there is probably worth trying to replace. If I was running from a fire I have to pleasure of knowing that I could grab all the sentimental items like the picture album filled with a record of the daughter’s formative years and perhaps a cherished bobble head.

But wait! I should go get that passport. I doubt I’ll be doing much travelling in the future but just in case I win one of those crazy on line raffles for an all-expense paid trip to Iceland, I’d hate to have to decline because I’m waiting on replacement documents proving who I am and what I look like. So that settles it, pictures, passport, and a cherished bobble head.

My essentials

My essentials

Oh no. But wait again (he says somberly). Forget the albums. Forget the bobble head. Forget the passport. (I’m going to have to find a more readily reachable place for that.) I forgot even more essential, if not sentimental items that I have to have. I have them with me all the time so I sometimes don’t consider that I actually have to carry them for them to be with me all the time. One is my cane. I can walk without it. For about 20 or 30 yards. About 50 to 100 feet depending on the day. That might get me as far as across the street from the theoretical blaze, but unless I’m planning on camping there forever, or unless I want to live the rest of my life 100 feet at a time, I better grab the cane.

That still leaves one hand free. Why not snag that cherished bobble head? Well…this a little personal. So much so that I don’t even tell people what’s in the bag I always have if someone who even suspects that it’s anything other than just a small day bag should ask. It’s a small bag but it’s huge in what it means to me.

You might recall from two posts ago that I am pretty much running on spare parts and that some of those parts actually are performing functions they were not originally designed to. And they require some help. That ever present bag carries the external pieces my spare-parted body needs to perform some otherwise routine internal functions. Yeah, that’s more than a little cryptic, but let’s say I can’t go but about 6 hours without it.

So. Two hands. Two things I sort of need more than pictures, bobble heads, or even passport. It looks like for me, like it was a couple of generations ago, there’s no room for sentiment.

Now I’m curious. What would you carry out?


24 thoughts on “Fire Sale

  1. I am pretty useless since cats can’t really carry anything (we’re pretty useless on a daily basis). But I sure hope to high heaven my human would think enough of me to pick me up as she is running for the door!

  2. I’m leaving the door open, so the cats can run out. They’re smarter than us humans, so they’ll dash for freedom without having to worry about sentimental stuff. As long as all fur is intact, they’re great.

    No…wait a minute. As my space is currently the 2nd and 3rd floors of an ancient building with commercial space on the street – with a single door allowing access/egress to the apartment…I’d probably roast. Any fire big enough to start consuming all my worldly goods would quickly crawl between the floors via the stairwell. thus blocking any exit strategy I can formulate.

    IF I was brave enough to face broken bones from jumping out a window – anything that I could grab right before the jump would be rendered useless at the sudden stop on the street (phone, laptop, kindle, etc…)

    Damnit…I’m gonna freaking die. Thanks for ruining my Monday, man!


    1. I never thought of it even though I had heard the question often enough until I started writing the post. I always figured as long as I and the family got out it would be ok. Then when I got sick and started accumulating what I call my auxiliary pieces I realized how much trouble I would be without them for even a short time.
      Hopefully we’ll never have to find out what we would take.

  3. “Things” mean so little to me now. I would try to remember to get my purse maybe. Other than that, I can’t think of a single things. I no longer have pictures of my children or anybody else, nor do I have pets. Sometimes, I’m not even sure I’d leave.

  4. Sadly, unless someone helped me out, then I would just have to burn. My ramps are so ghetto that I can’t push my wheelchair on them without help. The plus side is that someone could load up my lap like a shopping cart. I could hold onto the dog, the kid, bag of meds, some yarn, and the kitchen sink.

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