When Max was in Cub Scouts, he was working on the requirements for one of his badges. We were going down the checklist. “Max, do you know where we keep the emergency telephone numbers?” “Yes, they’re on the refrigerator,” he said. “Good,” I said. Check. We kept going down the list. First aid kit, care of bleeding, choking, etc. He assured me he knew it all. I said, “Max, do you know if you have an escape plan for the house?” He said, “You mean if there’s ever an earthquake?” I said, “Yes, or a fire.” He said, “Yes. I’d get the hell out of there.” Check.
On October 26, 2019, we were evacuated from our home as the Kincade Fire burned to the north of us. We had been packed and ready since the Tubbs Fire in October 2017. But as the high-lo sirens blared and the police drove through our neighborhood announcing, “This is a mandatory evacuation,” I began to panic. My Max said to me, “Mom. Stop. Breathe. It’s okay. We are going to be okay.” I packed myself, my mom, and two dogs, Tommy and Lilo, into my car. Max took our other dog, Atticus, and all the musical instruments he could cram into his car. And we headed to my dear friend’s home*, south, away from the fire.
The next day we watched the videos and television footage of the fire burning towards our home. We watched as fire engines drove up and down the streets of our neighborhood. We watched as firefighters and first responders set up their command center in the county park half a mile from our house. We watched as firefighters fought flames back in the backyards of our neighbors and friends. I started crying. And Max said, “Enough, Mom. You’re done watching this.” He closed my laptop. And he hugged me. And he told me we would be okay, we would start over if we had to. He told me he had saved money and we could use it to begin again. My then-17-year old son who has always been an old soul, became a young man in front of my eyes that week. He took care of our family. And for that, I will always be grateful to him.
We went back home five days after we were evacuated.
When I look at my sons, I am consistently grateful that I didn’t fuck them up. Or if I did, that at least they made it to adulthood as good human beings. Someone once told me that mothers and sons share cells and that those memories create an innate, intuitive bond between you. I’m sure it’s the same for mothers and daughters. Which, I think, means that by however many degrees of separation and cellular memory, we are all connected. Mothers and fathers and our children. All of us.
When fires burn towards you, get the hell out of there. Go where it’s safe and your tribe will love and take care of you. Know that badass, brave firefighters and first responders will risk their lives for you to come home again. They are part of your tribe, too. Maybe remember to say a prayer that they get to go home to their families.
I hope your holidays are beautiful and bright. I hope you are at home and safe. And if you’re not sure, I think home is anywhere and everywhere love is. So, I think that you should go where the love is.
*Thank you, merci, arigato, Rene, and my beloved tribe, for taking care of us.