Well, I think I’ve done it. I’ve narrowed my list of personal articles I’d save in the event of fire to 10 things.
Back when I was in my fire-terror phase, round about age 10, I thought about this a lot. Back then it was things like cassette tapes and wind-up music boxes and my ginger headed Cabbage Patch Kid with the fat leg (popped stitch) named Rorie Brianna, that I was saving.
I know what you’re thinking…”How do you choose from the heirlooms, the collectibles, the handmades and sentimental vestiges of an entire life?” Well, it wasn’t easy. It was excruciating, actually, to look at each item in my house and imagine it bursting into flames and melting grotesquely, which is what I did.
Then I rated the strength of the feeling I had on a scale of “Good riddance, motha’ucker!” to “Nooooooo!!!!! I feel like my soul is being ripped out of my chest (or liver or stomach or brain, depending on which ancient culture’s physiospiritual beliefs you subscribe to) and burning to ash along with that thing I’m imagining on fire!!!!”
It took me a really long time to do this with every object in my house and then gauge my feelings on a scale of 1 (my ill-fitting swim goggles) to 10 (my monkey lamp) and then weigh that against all of my other feelings for every other object.
But I’m virtually unemployed so I did it.
Without further ado, here is My List of Pre-Determined Burning House Survivors:
1) My Monkey Lamp
This monkey has been carrying these fancy torches with silk shades for who knows how long. He’s wearing a fez so I guess he’s from North Africa. I got him at a garage sale and don’t expect to find another like him anywhere ever. I don’t think I’d want to live very long without my monkey lamp.
2) My Hungry Beaver Pencil Sharpener
I’ve had hungry-for-pencils beaver since the 4th grade, and now his legacy continues because I taught Lali how to sharpen pencils on him. The shavings go into his belly. His upper torso lifts off and then you dump him out.
3) This Baked Alaska
I can’t believe I actually made a baked Alaska and it’s all gonna melt and burn in a fire.
4) This picture
I took this picture of my twin cousins when I was 12 or so. As you can see, my cousin Monica is falling off this ledge adjoining my grandparents’ silo, while her sister Melissa looks on, paralyzed with fear. I am very proud that I captured this raw human moment on film and would not like to see it burnt up in a fire.
5) My Seashell Collection
Every other year my family goes to Cape May, New Jersey, and each time I buy a new seashell from the seashell store. A few of them I found myself in Mexico. When I pictured my seashells burning I felt very sick and dizzy.
6) My Ukulele
This ukulele is imported from Hawaii, which seems pretty special. It only cost me a hundred bucks, but the memories it holds are priceless. I remember sight reading “Molly Malone” and “The Streets of Laredo” for the first time. I remember when I came up with a whole new strum for “Oh My Darlin’ Clementine.” For a moment I considered letting it burn because it’s horribly out of tune, and if it burned I could get a new one that’s in tune, but then I felt so ashamed of myself, that I ended up ranking my ukulele as a 9.5 on the combustion angst index.
7) My Bookshelf with All the Books Still on It:
Is this cheating? Maybe. But no, I don’t think so. A bookshelf is one thing and since I’ll be having a massive adrenaline rush on account of the fire and all, I don’t see why I can’t carry the whole thing out on my back.
But If That Doesn’t Work:
I would just grab these books: Family Circus: Who Invented Rain? This book is actually pretty funny. Especially Jeffy, he’s the funniest. He’s the one asking who invented rain on the cover, which is funny because nobody “invented” rain, it is just a part of our planetary system, and really dependent on our distance from the sun.
Also “The Brothers K” because I borrowed it from Anne Liechty and though “My house burned down!” is probably an acceptable excuse not to return a borrowed book, I’d like to think I can do better than that.
7) My Garam Masala from Nepal
I bought this garam masala in Nepal four years ago while visiting my friend Jill. She recently was in town and saw it on my spice rack and said, “Gail, it is time to throw this away.” Okay, but it says “Flavour Forever” on it. And it reminds me of Bhatbhateni Super Store. And Jill will never believe that I rescued it from a fire, which would make it all worth it…just to see the look on her face.
8) This Baby Leg:
One of my daughter’s favorite babies lost a leg week, as I believe I mentioned in my last blog. Here it is. Would I save it from a fire? I think I would. But not the rest of the doll, which is quite homely.
9) My Family Heirloom Red Suspender Pants:
My mom sewed me these pants when I was in kindergarten. I want Lali to have to wear them too, as a multi-generational kindergarten hazing ritual.
10) My Homemade Sandwich Bag:
Kim Burkholder made me this reusable sandwich bag. What would be really great is if I had time to make a sandwich, put it in the bag and take the bag with a sandwich in it, since I will probably be hungry after watching the total, irreversible destruction of all of my material property.
11) My paperweight from Murano
I know what you’re thinking. Why isn’t she stopping at ten? She is only supposed to take ten items. Okay, sure. But let’s say it is a slowly smouldering fire, like an oven fire which was pretty contained or a chimney fire. Say I had double the time of one of those flash fires. Then I could also take this paperweight that my mom got in Murano, Italy, made of Italian glass.
12) And This Folder of TESL Papers I Borrowed from Laura Shank:
13) And My Unicorn Christmas Cards:
14) And Lord Forbid My Pants Fall Down While Wrapped in a Blanket and Drinking Hot Chocolate with Local Firemen, So, My Belt
15) My Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Or at Least These Two Pages:
16) My Easter Seal Stamps from 1985
17) This Two-Dollar Bill Valerie Sent Me in the Mail
18) My Soon-to-Be-Collectible Continental Airlines Playing Cards
19) This Fancy Jacket Thingy I Got at a Clothes Exchange but Never Wore
18) This Child’s Size Adirondack Basket Backpack That Carry Wilcox Custom Made for Lali and That She Could Tote Around When We’re Homeless Because Our House Burned Down.
So okay, I think that’s all I can get. By now things are really smoky and crackly and just unbearable. By now, Lali is crying for Momma, and Dave and my landlady are double-team physically restraining me from running back in for more stuff.
But look at all of the material possessions I saved! I rejoice at these earthly treasures and the happiness they have brought, and will continue to bring me!
Really the important thing is that everyone is okay, and that I got my stuff.