view from our front yard Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.

Some people might think Southern California is all about beaches and boardwalks, but I think we may have had the “real” SoCal experience this week when we had to evacuate our rental home due to wildfires.

We were never in any danger, but the fire did come a little close for comfort (above picture was taken from our front yard). Dave was, of course, at work, so I loaded up kids, irritated cat, changes of clothes, bin of photo albums, pack ‘n’ play, etc. and away we went. It’s funny what you notice at such moments — the kids were most struck by neighbors loading bird cages of canaries into their van. When the flames came over the hill, I calmly told my 8-year-old daughter, Nora, “We should go tell the Bergmans [our neighbors] that we can see the fire and they should leave, but don’t scare their kids, okay?” She nodded soberly. We all bustled across the street — my 2-year-old holding my hand and going as fast as her little toddler legs could take her — and Nora instantly burst into the Bergmans’ house, flapping her arms and shrieking, “EVERYBODY OUT! Get out, get, out! The flames are COMING OVER THE HILLSIDE!” The young Bergman boy burst into tears.



We were able to evacuate to my dad’s in Carlsbad (THANKS DAD), and since he’s in Ireland visiting family, my gang of ruffians had the run of his lovely, uncluttered, artsy home. (THANKS AGAIN DAD.) We are back home now and just fine.

But it struck me that one lesser-known benefit (?) of being a military family is that your kids get to sample natural “events” from around the world. We have, luckily, never been in any real danger. But now my kids are the annoying ones in class whose hands fly up when teachers ask, “Who here has been through a hurricane?” “Has anyone here ever lived in a tornado area?” Now they can volunteer stories galore if they’re ever asked about wildfires.

dancin’ in the basement during a tornado warning, Belleville, Illinois, circa 2011.

It’s my hope that experiencing such events will make them more empathic, although so far they just seem to find the whole thing rather exciting. My son Soren, who’s six, confessed, “It might just be because I’m a kid, but I think evacuation is kind of fun.”

I may still have to rely on good literature to promote that real sense of empathy. Nora said, “We can’t complain, Mom. Just imagine if we were like the Ingalls family when there was the fire on the prairie. Remember? How Ma and Pa Ingalls had to dig that trench around their cabin and Pa fought fire with fire?!” And my heart soared and I said, probably with too much intensity, “OF COURSE I remember that, Nora. I remember it as if it happened to me because that is such a damn good book.”

Okay, my response wasn’t quite that weird. But still — good literature gives you a sense of perspective.

view from our window last night — smoke from fires in Escondido, about 15 miles away. Stay safe — and classy! — San Diego.