I survived a forest fire.

Oscoda, Michigan, May 2, 1984: thick black smoke loomed on the horizon, and all of the grownups seemed really nervous.

Naturally, the kids followed suit, because children generally tend to cling to the belief that adults are in control of things, until suddenly it is revealed that they are not.

So here I am, 7 years old, being babysat at a neighbor’s house down the street, while my parents were out doing something(can’t remember what), and the evacuation begins, and everyone’s rushing everyone to get into the big Who’s the Boss type van in the driveway because the fire is coming! Get outta here, now, or you’re gonna die!

I inquired about my Star Wars toys, whether or not we had time to go to my house and retrieve them, and the answer was of course, not what I’d hoped to hear, but I remember thinking that the fire probably wouldn’t reach that far, anyway. Apparently it almost did, judging by this oscoda press newspaper article I found about the incident.

The flames were extinguished before catastrophe struck, I was reunited with my parents, and all was well.

I look back on this memory, now as hazy as the smoke that filtered through the birch trees to herald the approaching flames with fondness. It’s a good memory. Not for my mom, who told me yesterday when we dug this article up that she’d been in a state of panic over being separated from her little boy during the entire event, but as for me, I still remember how relieved I felt to see my Mom and Dad again. I was safe with them, always. They never let me feel afraid of anything. They shielded me from everything dangerous in the world, and I truly believed that no harm could come to me when I was with them. I miss that feeling, now that I’m an adult and I know that they were always just regular people, like me, struggling to survive and doing their very best to raise an adopted kid with a messed up brain. I value them again at 40 as much as I did at 7 because I’m starting to realize the full scope of their influence on my life, and what they did for me and continue to do. The only two people on earth who will ever love me unconditionally will be gone someday, and I appreciate them now more than ever.


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