Wednesday, August 10, 2011
What to save? - Kandy Shepherd
What would you save if your house was on fire? I’ve sometimes pondered the answer to that question—but a few weeks ago I was put to the test.
We had a fire at our farm house, started by an electrical fault. Thankfully our wonderful neighbors not only discovered the fire and contacted the fire department, but also broke a window and put most of the fire out. In our valley, most of the men are bush fire brigade volunteers, so they knew what they were doing. They saved our house from total ruin. Real life heroes!
The kitchen was destroyed and the rest of the cottage severely smoke damaged. Fortunately we were insured, because every single thing in the house was covered in horrible, stinking chemical soot. The “disaster management” team leader who came in to clear the house and will assess what can be saved and what will have to be replaced, asked me to tell him what was particularly important to me. There was nothing that wasn’t replaceable or repairable but he stressed that you can’t put a price on items with sentimental value.
Of course I was too shell-shocked to think straight at first. Luckily all the photo albums and other irreplaceable items were stored elsewhere. But I went through the rooms with him and found it wasn’t so hard to direct him what to try and save at any cost. My teen daughter’s horse riding trophies. Her adored border collie stuffed toy. The furniture my husband had spent months restoring and finishing. The carpet I’d hauled back from India with me many years ago. The watercolors of lavender painted by my friend for my bedroom. My mother’s china. My stepmother’s linens. So much stuff that was precious.
Then he came to the bookshelves and the atmosphere got gloomy. Books, he told me, were very difficult to salvage from smoke damage. I would be advised to only rescue the minimum. So, in the limited time we could stay in that poisonous atmosphere, I had to sort through hundreds of books and prioritize them. The collection needed culling. I wondered why I had hung on to so many books I knew I would never read again. But then there were the ones I adored and wanted to immerse myself in again. And there were the signed editions from my author friends. Precious children’s books I had read aloud over and over again to my daughter. Cook books. Gardening books. Interior design books. Travel books.
What I saved for possible repair, and what I didn’t, gave me pause for thought. All of the above I saved. But I said goodbye to many novels I knew would cost more to restore than replace, without too much heartache. Why? Because I knew I could easily replace them with e-books. And that’s a decision I wouldn’t have made so easily even three months ago. But a digital library is so much more fireproof than the other kind!
Above all, the thing the whole family mourned the most was the cupboard full of my preserves: the cherry jam, the peaches, and most of all the plums. Our disaster manager said it simply wasn’t safe to keep them. Please, plum tree, bear a bountiful crop again this year!
What would you put first in your list to save from a fire or other disaster? Could a digital book ever replace a “proper” one? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment for a chance to win a signed trade paperback copy of either of my novels HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS or LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and include your email address and which book you would prefer if you want to be in the draw.