This past week was a bit trying on the heart for me and left me reminiscing on old childhood memories.
Several months ago, a friend of mine lost their home and everything in it to a house fire. I spent the week trying to be helpful and not get in the way as he sifted through rubble and debris in hopes to recover a few cherished items like photos and family heirlooms. I hurt for my friend as I watched him trying to rifle through the ashes trying to salvage a few precious memories in hopes that somethings survived the severe damage. Thankfully no one was hurt but it is still heart-wrenching to see all you work for gone in the blink of an eye.
It brought back memories of when I was a kid and a kerosene heater caught fire in our home. It was the 80's and my parents used the heater to help knock the chill off in the winter. It was a wonderful childhood home but it was two stories, over a hundred years old and hard to heat when the temperatures would drop. One day, while my brother and I were at school and my parents at work . . .the heater caught fire and covered every nook and cranny of the house in a thick layer of soot. We were extremely blessed that the house did not catch fire and the home and our belongings were recoverable. However, it took several months of hard work and labor along with the help of very generous friends, family and neighbors to make the house livable again.
My great uncle, Oscar Frederick, of New Ross had a couple of apartments over his grocery store on Main St. (right next to the bank). A neighbor washed us enough clothes to get through a couple of days and with donated mattresses the four of us were living in my uncle's small one bedroom apartment above the New Ross grocery. As an adult I can only imagine the fear and stress that my parents must have been going through. But I was only about 10 years old at the time and my mom was good about making it a fun adventure for my brother and I. We literally had a few clothes each and the bare necessities that had been handed down to us. Every day was different and fun. We slept on mattresses scattered about on the floor, which for us kids was like having a slumber party every night. We found creative ways to entertain ourselves and played a lot of board games. I remember the day my dad and uncle had finished the master bedroom. They had cleaned and painted and my dad surprised mom with a king size water bed. Remember those?? The big mirror- shelved headboard with drawers underneath. My dad and my uncle Carl had spent weeks doing repairs on the house. The day they completed the bedroom, dad came in tired and exhausted and woke us all up to take us to show us the one finished room in the house and surprise mom with the new furnishings. It was like Christmas. I remember mom crying when she opened the door and I couldn't understand why she would be crying. I can still see her hands cover her mouth as her jaw dropped, so grateful at the prospect of having her home again. She laid across the bed and took in the moment as the plastic liner of waves rolled beneath her. Finally, being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Back then, there was a Big Lots store in the Boulevard Mall here in town, It was fairly new to us and became my mom's favorite place to shop. The store carried paint but they only had like three colors. White, off-white and this gawd awful mint green. Of course, the whole ordeal took a financial toll so dad was doing all he could to get us back in the house on a budget. Needless to say, our entire house . . . edge to edge, every room, every wall and every ceiling was in Big Lot's mint green. To this day my mom will tell you that dad is not allowed to pick the paint color ever again.
It took several months to get back into the house. My mom still speaks of how appreciative she is to all the people who helped us get back into our house. Neighbors who washed the seamlessly never ending loads of clothes, linens and even my stuffed animal to the friends and family who came and helped scrub walls, clean dishes and household items and those who pulled from their own households to give to ours to ensure we had everything we needed.
As I said before, we were grateful that our home and belongings were not completely destroyed and as crazy as it may seem, the time we shared in that little apartment with mattresses on the floor is one of my fondest and most cherished childhood memories.
I like to believe that everything that happens in our lives happen for a reason. That the people we meet, the relationships we make, and who and where we are today is a result of the life we have lived. I hope that some years from now, out of the ashes, my friend will be able to look back and find that though so much was lost there was also something to be gained. I suppose things never happen as we plan them and the unexpected can be devastating, forcing us to find the strength to overcome. Hopefully, in the end we are better for it.
Until next week, stay safe, stay healthy and remember . . . we're all in this together.

Stacey Baschwit works at The Paper of Montgomery County, along with her many other duties, and writes a weekly column about the people, places and events that make up her world.