Diane Dean-Epps: Going home | TheUnion.com

Diane Dean-Epps: Going home

Diane Dean-Epps
Other Voices

Home. What an image that evokes. We often think of it as a physical structure; home ownership being an element of the American Dream to which many of us aspire.

Home. It's not just a word, but rather an entire frame of reference. An experience. An emotional concept. That's why the homes we make embody not just physical comfort, but they represent peaceful sanctuaries.

What happens when you don't have a home? When it's taken away from you? Even more painfully, what happens when it's completely wiped off the face of the earth in mere minutes?

In the wake of the Camp Fire I've been thinking a lot about this concept of home.

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For our family, the destruction of Paradise became more than just a news story when we received the first pictures and phone call from our daughter attending college in Chico. It was early in the morning when she saw the plume of smoke, texting me the image. The rest is a blur.

"The rest" included the horror of waiting for news as her boyfriend's family valiantly escaped Paradise with their lives. It was her being evacuated as she described for me the indelible images that included watching the fire approach Chico, while she packed whatever she could, including her beloved cat, as she fled her apartment.

And about that boyfriend's family. We haven't met them face-to-face yet, but from the onset we've taken an emotional journey with Mama and her three kids as they drove through multiple fires, against some pretty stacked odds, to get to safety.

It was her quick thinking — she was dropping off one child at school when she had a bad feeling — that made it possible for her to hurry back home to retrieve her other children.

It took her 10 hours, during which time she left a good-bye message for her husband, saying she was sorry. They all ended up safe, although they lost everything, including their beloved pets.

While it's true, they're luckier than many, having a place to live with the rest of her family in Chico, I'm amazed by their resilience. Every possession has been taken away, and yet Mama figured out how she could still give.

After the smoke had, quite literally, cleared, this woman — who lost her house, her job, her belongings, all in one day — cut her long, lustrous hair and donated it to "Locks for Love." Are you crying yet? Okay, well try this one.

One of their cats survived. Tireless rescue workers just found him at the site of their burned out husk of a home, where he was trying to return after the fire. He is the Christmas gift. This little kitty has singed whiskers, burned paws, and "I survived big trauma" written all over his cute little furry face. And the look written on those three kids' faces? Sheer joy, love and wonderment. That adorable kitty restored a smidgen of normalcy to this family, which is Christmas gift number two.

We're all connected. This is a reminder of not just how tenuous life is, and how much we can't control, but how important it is to remember the connections.

We don't need to take on all of the suffering in the country, adopt all of the children in the world, nor give away every dollar we earn. We just need to remember — and honor — the connections.

What if every single one of us offered our home just once to a critter or a person in need? Wouldn't that be the best home ever?

Diane Dean-Epps lives in Grass Valley.

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