Doesn't it seem that all I write about these days are children or wildfires?
Well, today you're in luck. Today I bring you, children and wildfires. Please don't change the channel.
A lot of people have been asking how Anna has been handling the recent inferno/evacuation debacle, which is a good question. Children have a way of seeming to handle the most ridiculously stressful situations with complete oblivion, and then they regurgitate them at a later date to let you know that a) yes they are psychologically scarred for life and b) bad parent, bad parent, sit!
The first time we were evacuated I tried very, very hard not to mention the fire. It was late evening and the fire was behind the house and not readily visible from our subterranean lair. God knows why she believed we were taking our computer, guinea pig and several suitcases to our friends house to 'watch the Lakers game', but she did. Anna therefore recalls this incident as the time all the lights went out and Mummy started swearing. That's right, she doesn't remember the fire but she does remember the other F word.
The first night of the Jesusita fire we were not directly threatened. In fact we put up evacuees. The local school across the road was used as a helicopter staging ground though, and throughout the night helicopters were taking off and landing about 100 yards away. It was like Vietnam. Every 40 seconds one would thunder overhead. Until suddenly at about 4am it stopped. What, suddenly there's a City ordinance prohibiting mass air traffic from 4am onwards but before that's it fine? Regardless, the girls slept through it all. Happily oblivious to the military operation going on outside.
The next day though, the fire couldn't be missed. As I tore across town to pick up Anna, running in to roadblock after roadblock I was becoming increasingly frantic. The fire was an apocalyptic orange-black cloud covering an increasingly large portion of the sky. I sat in the parking lot of Anna's school for a lifetime (40 seconds approx) trying to put my 'hello birds, hello sky' flight attendant smile on so I wouldn't frighten the kids. Anna may have smelt a rat when she said "Momma I need to find my shoes" and through my perma-smile I cried, "we don't need shoes! let's just go home! no shoes! let's just go home! right now!!"
In the car, shoe-less, the fire looming over us I tried to pacify her with Raffi, but Anna wanted to talk about the smoke plume. Any fears that she may be terrified were quickly allayed when she said "Kyra said that cloud is a storm but I said it is a fire. Fuh-fuh-fire. Fire begins with F and so does frog and fashion and I would like to be a fashion princess when I get home when I get home can I put my princessdressonandcanIwearmysparklyshoesand......" You get the idea. There we were driving in to the eye of the fire storm, sirens wailing all around, me fielding phonecalls about my father-in-law packing up our house and our friend evacuating with Lucy, and Anna? She was planning her evening ensemble.
Several hours later, ash falling like snow all around us, we drove out to the Santa Ynez valley to our friend's vineyard. In a typically petulant 3 year old way she complained that she wanted to go home, she wanted to watch Noggin, she didn't like the valley, etc etc but then she fell asleep. The rest of the four days we were evacuated she had a rare old time, playing with her friend K and taking endless baths with her in the ranch's old Victorian bathtub that was so deep Anna disappeared underwater for a time (according to K, she was underwater for "about 8", but K's grasp of time can sometimes be questionable, case in point when I asked her how long her Spring Break was and she said "like, a really long time, I think 13 years, maybe 10".)
Here's some pictures of Anna enduring her forced wildfire evacuation. Doesn't she look stressed?
It remains to be seen how much this has affected Anna. I know I flinch every time I hear a siren, and I panic if I see anything orange at a distance. I need advice. I don't know how much to talk this through with her. I'm tempted to take my cues from her, but so far she hasn't mentioned the fire at all, which has to be some kind of denial. I don't want her growing up having panic attacks whenever someone produces a lighter. It would be rather embarrassing if she ducked for cover when we lit her birthday candles.
As for the true victims of the fire. Our tenants came to us yesterday to confess that they believe the violent shaking from the low-flying helicopters has caused their toilet cistern to crack. It boggles the mind.