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My son and daughter-in-law’s house burned to the ground in the voracious California Woolsey fire last November, and they were left, literally, with the clothes on their backs and their pets. The immediate shock left us feeling simultaneously hollowed out and filled with gratitude that they were all alive.
This was their first home and they had owned it for 97 days. Their two-year-old daughter won’t remember this house, except through pictures and the stories we’ll tell her about it. Fortunately, she was with her other grandparents on that morning and didn’t have to experience the trauma of driving down a mountain road with houses burning on both sides.
Over the following days, our minds drifted from the magnitude of their having lost everything to the particular things they lost. And always we circled back to the fact that they all survived—that what was lost was just “stuff.”
Despite this resolute attitude that anchored us through the horror, I admit I felt a tiny pang of sorrow when I realized the coffee table I’d made for my son in honor of his college graduation was gone.
Truth be told, I suspect that my son and daughter-in-law weren’t too crazy about the table’s design, and that perhaps its loss wasn’t something they’d overly mourn.