What Would You Take with you if You Had to Flee Your Home?

The fires in southern California that destroyed about 1,500 homes and damaged hundreds more could cost insurers about $1 billion, according to the New York Times.

I can't imagine a billion of anything, let alone dollars. In fact, I can't envision that amount of money in my hand any more than I can envision a fire three-fourths the size of Rhode Island creeping up the backyard and endangering me and my home.

The failure of my imagination makes the real world no less real, though.

That reality came home to me Sunday night in my father's story of his aunt's facing the fires from her San Diego home. Though she and her home survived the fires, her backyard was scorched and the exterior of her house suffered some damage. Dad's story of Aunt Connie and her home brought to mind another aunt's story.

My Aunt Dot spent the final years of her life in Palm Coast, Florida, another region of the country that has been afflicted by fires in recent memory. This environmental nightmare haunted my aunt and uncle over the years they lived there.

In one of her many good, old-fashioned letters, Aunt Dot reminisced in 1999 about being evacuated to a shelter set up in a high school many miles from home. For her and my uncle, it was an inconvenient adventure; they did what they were told. "Even tho we are old enough to die, we're really too busy to," she said.

She reflected on the "What do you take with you?" question, too. "Though the fires have not come as close this year," she said, "I have made mental notes of what we want to save--in case. (Even stored some packing boxes that are handy.)"

Having the time to think through what you might like to save if a fire comes must seem like a strange luxury to folks whose homes have been devastated by the fires in California. At the same time, it's a strange hardship for me; I live in a part of the country that seems to be sheltered from the worst of the bad weather (knock wood).

It's a good thing to think about, though. What do you own that is important to you? Faced with the imminent destruction of your home, what would you take from it before you had to flee, perhaps never to return?


  1. Anonymous10:33 PM

    A good question, haven't ever really thought about it.

    A friend who lives in the bush has a suitcase by her door with all her essentials so she's ready anytime.

  2. Like my aunt!

    I think I would take the letters of my grandmother, Great Uncle, and Great Aunt. Perhaps also the old genealogy. These are stories that allow us to hear the voices of another time.

  3. Anonymous7:14 AM

    I think I'd want to take something I might not be able to replace - photo albums, maybe. And I'll cheat a little...as many as I could carry.

  4. My memories, and I really don't know what else.

  5. Dick,
    Interesting comment. I have often thought such circumstances certainly clarify what's important. In the end, perhaps what is stored in the heart is what matters and the point is simply to walk on. I don't know.

  6. That's a really hard decision. I can't really think of anything except my purse and all the food I could carry. I like Dick's answer tho.

  7. Computer, camera, guitars (as many as could carry), dogs and ummmmm, oh yeah, wife ;)

  8. Anonymous9:56 PM

    Wow . . . this has inspired me to come up with a Thursday Thirteen list!! Thanks for the inspiration, Sandy! Come check out my list later tonight.

  9. "Even tho we are old enough to die, we're really too busy to,"
    Interesting quote that ;)

    Personally (besides personal safety of kin), have a small file of important items in an easily accessible area which one can find in the dark


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