Tuesday, January 13, 2009
We had a house fire. My room didn't have any damage from fire, only from smoke. The smoke from synthetic carpet, combined with Corian and wood and drywall and plastic suitcases and notebooks of 5th grade poetry assignments, is thick and oily. It never comes out. I still wear the leather jacket I had back then, which was a story and a half below the flames (and smoke, we all know, rises), but the lining is still several shades darker.
The unglazed porcelain didn't have a prayer. The Precious Moments figures were on a shelf high in my room (on the top floor) in the thick of the smoke. The porous material absorbed all the gray carcinogens it could. Insurance men took one look, ordered them scrapped, and gave us money to replace them. They didn't even try to clean or save them. Not cost-effective.
I didn't much care for most of the figurines. The money was designated just as bedroom decoration, so we got the replacement value in cash but didn't need to spend it on Precious Moments stuff. Fine.
But one figure I kept. I think, or at least I remember, hiding it, smuggling it out of the house. Tdoay it seems a bit ridiculous - my parents' house sustained half a million dollars in property damage, and I (a 17-year-old girl) was worried about being put in jail for insurance fraud for keeping a $10 smoke-damaged porcelain figurine destined for the dumpsters.
The figure is on a small shelf in my library, next to a glass of sand I collected from the beach during my honeymoon and a box of soap from the Penninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. It's a boy, with that large Precious Moments head and those teardrop eyes. The eyes are dark brown. The color is mostly gone from the rest of him. There's a hint of green to his coat, and I think his shoes were brown. Dark brown soot still remains in the folds of his pants and under his neck, where I couldn't clean him well.
He's holding a single flower, as if he's giving it to someone.
My brother gave me this when we were kids, I think when we were 8 and 6, or maybe 10 and 8 (I'm the older one). He gave it to me for my birthday.
Today, I think about why. I don't know if my mom bought it for him, or if she took him to a Hallmark and told him to pick out a Precious Moments figure for his sister, or what.
But in my heart it doesn't matter. It's my six-year-old brother saying "I love you" with a flower. Not with words. My brother and I never needed words then.
It doesn't smell like smoke anymore. But I think the smoky soot gray is there to stay. That's okay. The figure isn't broken. I kept it. I deliberately kept it. And it's in my library, on display with other things that are precious to me. But really, what could be more precious that a brother's love?
Loving him back, maybe. And I do. I love you, Dan.