I stood at our big, rustic pine armoire tonight unpacking scrapbooks and yearbooks. I packed them up this time last year after cleaning away what soot I could dislodge from them. I had wrapped them in archival tissue paper hoping it would absorb some of the smoke smell. I've been putting off this task for months.
I unwrapped a Winnie the Pooh baby album. It belongs to Fish. The cover is stained with soot and it won't come off. I gave it a light swipe with a chemical sponge and set it on the shelf. I unwrapped my wedding album. Not in bad shape at all. Then I unwrapped some of our yearbooks and I could smell the smoke; the fire. And suddenly there I am again.
I see myself standing at that cabinet, a different cabinet, but similar, in a room dark with soot and no electricity. The house is not my home; I live in a hotel. The house is full of people, strangers packing and labeling my things. I am crying. Frantically unloading stacks of scrapbooks and photos; handing them to my kids to run next door to the neighbor's garage. I can't trust them to strangers. Strangers are packing my things to take to a big warehouse and I cannot let them take my wedding photos and the kids' baby books. I must save them. I have to hurry because I am coughing from the toxic smoke that lingers and because I feel as if I might crumble if I stay in this wretched place that is no longer my home.
There I am again. Back at the fire. And the tears come. And I feel weak. And angry. Because I want to be done with this; this recovery thing.
But there I am again.
I want to embrace the day that I have no more boxes to unpack. The day when there is no more smoke to smell. The day when the insurance company and the inventories and invoices are a memory. The day when the house is completely back together. I want to embrace the day when the memories don't trigger the raw tears.
In time, that will come. But tonight, there I am again.