This link shows some of the damage that was done to our house.
The next day Doug got quickly got subs for the rest of his tour and caught a flight home in the morning. I hadn’t been expecting to see him so soon but it was an enormous relief to have him there. He was definitely looking for the silver lining in this situation because one of the first things he said was that he always knew we would have to move out of our house in order to finish the addition and maybe this meant that it was time for that to happen. My first thought after he said that was “huh?” I was already in a mental state that lasted way too long where I was totally obsessed with believing that it was all my fault and I would have given anything to be able to turn back time and to have not lit that candle. I was definitely not ready to suddenly not be living in my house anymore.
Speaking of touring, one of the things that I wish I hadn’t learned on the road was that the easiest way to make a smelly hotel room more tolerable is to open the windows, turn on the bathroom fan, blast the heat or AC, and then light a scented candle. After an hour or so you can no longer smell most of the offending odors. Most of the girls I tour with use candles or incense to make the hotel rooms smell more pleasant.
We went back to our house from next door and met with our insurance company and a fire restoration service that they had hired and I think the fire inspector came back again. Also a whole bunch of “independent adjustors” stopped to tell us we’d get more money if we used them. I certainly wasn’t thinking about any money I was going to be getting and I had no idea why all of these people wanted to help me with that. I really felt more like I should be paying a fine or going to jail or something for allowing my house to catch on fire and destroy everybody’s stuff. I really didn’t want to “get” any money as a result of this. I thought those guys were really rude and greedy. Then there were a bunch of random spectators dropping by, just wanting to chat with us about the fire and the damage. They were just being sociable, and were in most cases concerned and offering their help, but you could tell that some of them thought it was really exciting or pretty cool or whatever that we’d had this big fire.
We kept hoping we’d see Seymour. Maybe, by some miracle he had become frightened by all of the firemen and had run out the front door when that random man busted it down. But in spite of being a semi-feral cat, he was still an indoor cat and I knew that he was probably hiding up in John’s room where he always did, next to the radiator and he probably stayed there the whole time. We looked for him up there but didn’t see him. Seymour had been a feral kitten when we adopted him, so he was somewhat socially retarded. He would only let us “capture” him in two places, in the bathroom and on our bed. The bathroom is where he spent his first weekend as a house cat. One of Doug’s students was supposedly going to adopt him, so I spent the weekend preparing him for life as a house pet. I taught him how to use the litter box. I put a TV in there so he could get used to hearing people talk. He smelled really bad so I wiped him down with a damp wash cloth and he immediately started grooming himself for the very first time. After that he always kept himself nice and clean and fluffy. The other place he hung out was on our bed. He would be extremely cautious but intensely affectionate at the same time. Then he would run and hide and hiss at us from under the bed. It was very hard now not knowing where he was now.
The restoration company boarded up all of the broken windows and strung a bunch of lights inside that were hooked up to a generator so that the insurance company could come in and do all of their damage assessments more easily. Inside, the ashes were a foot or more deep and there was water dripping all over the place. All of the plaster walls had fallen down and there were partially charred pieces of furniture and random boards lying around everywhere. It truly was a disaster. I think part of the firemen’s technique involves chopping all of the walss and furniture with an ax and breaking all of the windows. They also tossed a whole bunch of stuff out the window. I guess they need quick access in order to save the structure by soaking it with water. It was very difficult to walk around in there with such a jumble of stuff on the floor. It really looked like the inside was completely destroyed.
The things I remember being particularly upset about losing were: Seymour, obviously, and our wedding pictures, my photo album from college, an album my mother had made especially for me of childhood photos, my skydiving video, my scarf that I had just learned how to knit, a “smarf” that Christina from the tour had crocheted for me, my computer, all and-I-mean-all of my clothes, and my brand new camera. These were the things that I first lamented not having anymore. I also lost my wallet and my passport. But at least my bass and most of my music things were safe. I took that as a definite sign that I was meant to keep on playing.
Outside there was stuff that the firemen had tossed out of the windows lying around all over the yard. It was a huge mess. There were pieces of furniture and tons of LPs. Among the items that they had thrown outside was the headboard of our bed. I became very confused when I saw it because there was a big charred hole in the center where the lamp had been and on the side where the candle was it wasn’t burned at all. I wondered why it wasn’t burnt where the candle was and then I thought maybe the wax got too hot for the container that was designed to hold it and maybe the glass broke and the hot wax rolled sideways 18 inches along the top surface of the wooden headboard, melting the plastic casing on the electrical cord which then caused the lamp to catch on fire.
*Footnote from 2007: This theory seems incredibly far-fetched now, but at the time I really needed to have an explanation for what had happened, since I considered myself responsible for the whole thing. But doesn’t wax usually harden almost immediately after it gets away from the candle flame? If so, it would have never even made it to the lamp. DUH!?!!! I guess this is the kind of weird theory that an emotionally disturbed person is likely to come up with.
The addition was completely intact. The fire singed a tiny section in the top corner near where it attached to the house and some of the siding had melted slightly. There were also about six windows in the addition that had been broken by the firemen. Inside the addition there was no damage at all. So Doug’s new CNC lathe, his office, all of his trombones, and all of my music stuff was totally fine. We lost nearly all of our personal belongings but very little of our professional equipment. It was such a relief to walk into the addition and see everything basically as we had left it.
Just this past August I had pressure-washed the entire outside of the house and painted it to match the new gray siding on the addition. No more pink house! I had just finished painting all but one section of it about two months ago during the Thanksgiving break of our fall tour. All that nice new paint melted off so that some of the pink was showing again, and in places it was even down to the original barn red that it had been when we bought it. So now all of my recent hard work was down the drain. At least I hadn’t gotten to the trim yet. By the way, the pink was Doug’s idea, although I was the one who actually did the painting. At that time I really wanted to have a blue house. The gray was nice, and at least it was a somewhat normal color.