A very good friend of mine and I were joking the other night as we talked on the phone. She was relating to me how she had coordinated a five minute, a thirty minute, and a one hour evacuation plan. I suggested that we pitch an HGTV show, where she could go from home to home, advising others on the delicate balance of things you need when you can't stay in your house. Having just returned from two days away from her own home, evacuated from the path of the Thousand Oaks fire, our conversation strayed into some pretty dark places. Considering there were a great many people who had never had the chance to flee, or to ponder what items might make the trip away from their homes, there was an edge of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I.
Which made me start to inventory my own life. What would I drag out the front door if I only had five minutes to choose? Would I have the presence of mind to remember my carefully laid plan? The most obvious answer is the one where I take the irreplaceable: My wife and myself. The stuff would have to wait. People, we preached to our son from a very early age, are more important than things. But what about those animation cels? The movie poster collection? Somewhere in a recess of my mind, I recall insurance playing a part in this, but I cannot imagine that there will be a replacement for the frame signed by Chuck Jones to me. I don't expect there is a set price for wedding photos. Or DVDs of our son when he was a tiny boy. When we taught him that people are more important than things.
Still, there is a short list of things I would like to believe I would tuck under my arm when the flames came over the hill, or the house began to creak and fail in an earthquake. The photo album. That first edition of Breakfast of Champions. Our wedding cake topper. The file cabinet with the last twenty-five years of documents, warranties, and policies. Or maybe just my wits.
It pains me just a little to think about what Neil Young must have lost in the fire. It makes me smile when I think about the man who found his wife's wedding ring amid the ashes. It gladdens my heart to know that my friends and family are safe again.