Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Fire Next Time

I guess I’ve been writing about the fire that destroyed our home and our neighborhood in the Oakland Hills for almost twenty years now. I just spent a year writing about it for my master’s thesis.
That’s a lot of words.
 Sometimes pictures do a better job of telling the story, so there will be pictures…

I’ve sort of dreaded getting to this part of my story, knowing all along when I started this year-long blog project I’d be writing about how I lost my house–and then BAM!–turned 40 just a couple of weeks later. I lost my home and my youth in nearly one fell swoop,adding insult to injury. (But it provided me with the opportunity to use “one fell swoop” in a sentence–twice.)

This is what happened in 1991: picking it up after my dreadful term of office as PTA president came to an end in June, when James celebrated his birthday.

James blows out five candles

He got to come along to Hawaii with Mom and Dad while the older kids went away to summer camp.

Hangin’ loose on Maui

We had a wonderful trip, and got to watch the big deal solar eclipse on TV because it was so overcast you couldn’t really see anything. Oh well.
We did get to see the Seven Sacred Pools–and two ordinary ones– at least.

After Hawaii, we took our usual family vacation at Donner Lake.

We got back home to Oakland just before school started.
So far, so good.

First day of school for everyone: James starts kindergarten!


And then: the fire. Ours was one of  over 3,000 homes that were destroyed in just a few hours on a hot, windy Sunday.

Here is what we found when we were allowed back into the neighborhood after October 20:

View from the street. Our mailbox survived somehow.
The tree, without the tree house.
It may look like a junkyard, but this is our collapsed house. Clothes dryer in the foreground.
Looking downhilll to the street. Bed springs, rebar, the metal boxes that used to be appliances: all that was left..
And this strangely beautiful piece of melted glass is something we found inside our dishwasher. A piece of charcoal in one end, a spoon embedded in the other. I’m not sure what it used to be. Nothing was what it used to be…

Madam President: The Storm Before the Storm

I imagine the smoke-filled room: a group of fat cats sit around a table. Their shirt sleeves are rolled up, they puff on stumpy cigars, their foreheads are slick with sweat. It’s getting late; the hours tick by while the discussion gets heated. Voices get louder and the shouted comments are laced with profanity. FistsContinue Reading

Mommies, Part 2

The Moms in the Mountains, continued. Captured at the kitchen table: (front) Lisa, Cindy, Chris; (back) Jo, Sara, me. 1998             In my imagination, I can take the trip with my friends to the cabin in the Sierra foothills any time I want. A group of women on the lam, families left behind for aContinue Reading

For Dearest Mommies, Part 1

No, not Mommy Dearest– it’s Dearest Mommies: A tribute to some special women who came into my life when I was in my mid-thirties. I don’t really remember the first time we met.  You know how it is with long-time friends– you feel as though you’ve always known each other.But there had to be thatContinue Reading

1+1 does not equal 2

Why is this woman smiling? She has a secret… (Apparently, I wrote but did not publish this particular post, just saved it as a draft for some reason. So time travel back with me to 1980…)  One plus one does not equal two?Well, that’s what my pediatrician said when I told him I was pregnantContinue Reading