Saturday, May 1, 2010 was just another Saturday to me. I wanted to work on our backyard (which back then was just dirt and weeds) and get some house stuff done in the morning. That afternoon I wanted to run some errands, not least of which was going to the jewelry store to look at rings to “let my boyfriend know what I liked.” Yes, we had been talking about marriage — we already owned a house and dog together!– but it wasn’t something I thought my husband had better planned than I did.
That day and the day before, my significant other insisted that instead of doing house work we go on a picnic. “No!” I declared thinking that if we got our housework done we could go look at rings! He tried to convince me again and again, I kept telling him we could picnic on Sunday and finally he conceded to do housework with me in the morning still with the hopes of having an afternoon picnic.
We finished our gardening and sometime around or just after lunch and I asked if we could go to the jewelry store. He told me we couldn’t, not that day. And I was bummed. I remember the dog was in the house because I had just sprinkled fertilizer around some vegetables in the backyard and she had tried eating it, so she was inside. In a small tantrum, feeling kind of sorry for myself, I went to our room and flopped down on the bed in frustration. My boyfriend was never going to marry me! I heard our screen door and yelled, “Don’t let the dog out, she’ll eat the fertilizer!” as I came out of the bedroom to make sure she wasn’t let out.
When I got into our dining room where our back door is, I happened upon my then boyfriend down on one knee. He will remember better than I will, but either I said “What are you doing, get up” first or right after he asked me to marry him. I’m not an entirely cold soul, for weeks or months every now and then he’d get down on one knee and then tie his shoe to purposely get my hopes up. So when he was finally really down on one knee and asking me to marry him, the first thing that I thought when I saw the ring was, “Is that real!?”
Realizing that he was not faking it, that this really was my marriage proposal (and that I probably already ruined it by telling him to get up and not to kid like that) I quickly accepted. You know in movies where you see a guy propose to a girl and she’s all smiles and hugs him or whatever? That did not happen to me. I was floored. More surprised than I have been by anything in my life. Again, we had been talking marriage, but I didn’t expect to be standing in my work clothes in our dining room. I certainly didn’t expect to be so entirely overwhelmed by emotion, either. Ultimately I’m still glad we weren’t in a public place having a picnic because I think people might have thought I was having a mental breakdown.
The first thing I wanted to do was sit down and gather myself. Then we both started making obligatory phone calls and sending texts. Of course no one was answering at first. Once I was able to collect myself, I said, “What now?” It felt weird to be at home not celebrating or something. We decided that on this beautiful warm day we would head to the coast to have a celebratory toast and revel in our happiness.
My new fiancé was forced to take some pictures with his new fianceé before we headed into a restaurant we like, the Half Moon Brewing Company (a restaurant we later had our night-before-the-wedding dinner at).
Fun fact: My engagement ring was meant to be “temporary” because my husband knew I would want to pick out my own setting. I think that makes him about the most genius man in the world. We ended up picking out the engagement ring for my diamond and because I’m sentimental, I had the band from my engagement ring turned into my wedding band.
Sitting outside, soaking up the sun and warmth that was quickly fading (welcome to the Northern California coast!) while nursing beers and my most favorite garlic bread with crab and cheese on top we celebrated our engagement. We talked about when we would want to get married — fall in a year and a half which quickly turned into just the half– and all kinds of other things. We were stocked. But despite our desire to stay and watch the sunset, the clouds had moved in, we were cold, and we were full of garlic and crab and cheese bread so we decided to head back home.
Our neighborhood has one main road into it, you go all the way down the street to the end, hang a right and our house is just a few houses down on the left. On this day, we could see that the end of the main street was blocked with emergency vehicles. We thought, no big deal, we’ll just go around a block and come in from the other side of where our house is. As we came around and were about a block and a half from where our house is, the street was still blocked. This is when I got nervous.
We parked and starting walking toward our house and saw all the fire trucks. Many of them. Our house is on a street that curves and so from down the street you can’t see it. You can see a white house on the corner which is next to ours but not ours or the houses after it. When we a half block away, and there were countless fire trucks and emergency vehicles, I asked a passing fireman what happened. He said there was a fire. I asked what house. He said, “I think the one next to that corner house…? Or the next one?” HOW COULD HE NOT KNOW!?
I started running and my now husband took off after me. When I got as close as I could, which was in seeing distance but not with a clear view of what was happening, all I could see was a large stream of black smoke coming up from the left side of our house or the right side of our neighbors. It evades me now, but at some point I was able to get a report that it wasn’t our house on fire, it was the neighbor’s.
Then I realized both of our fences had been knocked down and where was our dog!? I was ready to run into our house and started asking firefighters if they’d seen a dog before my husband reminded me that she was inside the house– we didn’t think we’d be gone for long– and that she should be scared but fine.
The picture above shows our house when it was white and the top of our neighbor’s house that’s all burnt. This was after the fire had been extinguished but before we were able to get any closer than this. At this point we still had no idea if our house had any damage.
When the fire started, no one was home in most of the surrounding houses. They later declared it an electrical fire. The only causalities were two small dogs that our neighbor’s had but their entire home was pretty much destroyed, requiring it to be stripped to the studs and rebuilt. We only lost a window and most of our fence. It was quite the emotional day and put a huge damper on the happy news we had earlier in that day. I wrote about it the day after here.
The fire started in their bedroom and that is the frame of our fence that you can see. It was an extremely windy day and the fire fighters did a great job at preventing our house from catching but our kitchen window got blown out by the heat from the fire!
Our neighbor’s had their home rebuilt and moved in almost exactly a year after the fire took place. They are still in the home today.
This is already a very long post but this is MY blog so I can do whatever I want. Right? Right. I was thinking about these events today as I think I will every May Day for years to come. My husband couldn’t wait for me to agree to a picnic before popping the question, our neighbor’s house burnt down. What two stranger events could go together?
And then, in addition to thinking about that day two years ago, I started thinking about how different– or not– things are compared to two years ago. We no longer have a dog, we’re now married, our house is in a completely different (and better) state of repair. My husband is in a different job, I am not. We’re able to enjoy activities on the weekend that don’t involve fixing up our house and concentrate on traveling and taking trips instead of pouring every cent into the house. I now vehemently believe that you should never skimp on insurance, that data should be backed up on the cloud (in case your house burns down and you lose a physical backup), that unplugging things when you go away for a trip is a must, that overloading the electrical in your house (with, say, a plug strip or two) is dangerous and that having a fire extinguisher is a good safety precaution (we went out and bought one for our kitchen and one for our garage).
The fire chief came into our house once we were allowed back in to make sure that we didn’t have any smoke damage. My then fiancé told him we had gotten engaged a few hours earlier and we were gone because we were out celebrating. “Congratulations!” he shook our hands, “I guess you’ll never forget today, then.”