When I was a kid, around Miss Gremlin’s age, our house burned down. To the ground, nothing left except the laundry drying on the hills hoist outside. As a kid it was a horrible time, we lost all our stuff. Sifting through the rubble is something I still can recall to this day, finding a treasure which didn’t get completely burned was a thrilling and terrifying thing all at the same time. I remember my Dad finding his wedding ring and some live bullets among the ashes.
The night before we had all heard the sirens and he and a friend went to investigate. Not something they would normally do but it seemed to be over by our house so there was a possibility it was us. We lived in a small country town at the time and were at a friends home across town for mum and dad’s weekly card night and get together. It’s amazing the details I can actually remember, hanging out in the living room playing with the toys I brought while the adults played cards and drank beer. Its funny now as an adult to think back to how it was then but in 1978, life was different. No baby sitter, you just went where your parents did and played until you fell asleep on the couch, being carried out the the car when it was time to leave.
I still remember dad describing it as they drove down the road and his feeling of seeing our home fully ablaze. He had to pull over the car so our friend could drive. I can’t imagine what he must have thought. His family’s hope and dreams going up in flames right before his eyes. I don’t remember how long they were gone that night but I do remember the panicked feeling and the worry and then the realisation once Dad returned with the news, that we weren’t going home that night or ever again. I was only a little kid. My brother even younger and the scope of what was actually happening was lost on us. I don’t really remember but I guess we stayed at the friends home that night, and went to survey the damage the next day.
I do remember living in the caravan at their home for a few weeks while we got things together and then getting a larger caravan on the block of where the house once stood. We spend 3 months in that caravan, 18′ long. It was an adventure for us kids, I remember the bunks and the funny shower and the washing machine outside under the annex. Life went on as normal, mum went back to work and we went back to school. We sifted through the remnents of our lives after school and wondered what happened to the guinea pigs we had as pets.
They escaped the fire and went a little wild, we would find them hiding in the long grass but they never were caught and caged again.
After a time my parents decided that living like that wasn’t doing anyone any good. They had decided they would not rebuild there but sell the block and move on and we rented a small house in Albury and moved from the little country town to the larger centre. The real estate agent who rented us that place became a very close friend over the years. Funny how things work out.
We had nothing but the clothes on our backs, literally, the clothes line was full of the washing mum had done that day but other than that everything was gone. The town rallied together and donated items for us, and even though we were relative newcomers to that tight knit community, they all helped us out. I remember being allowed to pick my very own quilt from the linen store, which I still had up until very recently when it finally fell apart. I have kept a swatch of it in my treasure box. It’s funny things that remain in your memory.
It wasn’t long after that mum and dad found the property that would become the family home and farm we’ve all loved for 35 years, that rugged piece of land at the end of a fire track, way out of town. The road is sealed now and the neighbours are much closer. The lights of the town twinkle brighter and larger but it’s still our piece of land at the end of the fire track.
So much has changed, many years have passed but I still remember that time like it was yesterday, when our house burned down and we got a colour tv and a modern stereo and the course of our lives changed forever.
It was actually the best thing that could have happened to our family but at the time it seemed like a tragedy.
Have you had an event that changed the course of your family for the better? Even though at the time it seemed like the end of the world?