We tried to make living at The White Castle an adventure for Violet. She started it by naming it The White Castle and so, while dealing with some pretty severe PTSD (any time I see smoke coming from a chimney my whole body clenches into a cramp as I remember flames shooting from my roof) ignited by the fire we anxiously, almost obsessively, tried to keep the fairytale alive by decorating her "Pink Princess Room" (which she also named) in happy, bright colors.
While living in The White Castle we'd roam in the woods behind the house, watch the dogs splash in a nearby river, we'd walk the neighborhood each afternoon making the rounds to our horse and cow and chicken friends, we strung Christmas lights on the back porch and most mornings we'd walk to the General Store for coffee and a lollipop from Belva, the woman who lives next to the store and works there each morning.
"Hewwo Belva!" Violet would say each time we walked in.
"Well, HELLO THERE, Violet!" Belva would reply. "Which kind of lollipop would you like today?"
Then we'd sit on the bench outside the store and watch the morning go by. Horses and buggies: Amish folks stopping in for a few items, farmers hauling cattle buying lotto tickets, coffee and shooting the shit. One time, after an afternoon visit to the General Store we just missed seeing a robbery go down at the bank across the street. Woman outside waving a gun and everything. Bummed to have missed out on the action. Woulda been quite a show, quite a show.
Upon reflection, I think we did a great job creating the smoothest transition possible. The move home, here, back to our reconstructed house was even better. For months leading up to the move we'd drive by and say hello to the construction workers and talk about moving back to her new Pink Princess Room. We carefully monitored the progress and discussed how we'd decorate it; bed here, reading corner there, fluffy purple rug here...
Now that we're back I spent the first few weeks going back to The White Castle, cleaning it, patching and painting over nail holes, even re-staining bits of the wood floor there (I want every cent of my deposit back, am obsessed with it! We had to pay a nearly $2,000 deposit to move in because of our dogs) and so Violet has come with me to say hello to The White Castle.
Now that it's all over and we're back home and nothing seems much worse for the wear (except maybe our marriage, but we're still hanging in here) I hope that one day The Fire will be a story we tell the kids, who at that point are sick to death of hearing about it. Kind of like your mom retelling the same stories about whatever that you've heard your whole life, the ones that you can repeat word for word and when she starts yammering the tired tale you roll your eyes behind her back and put your index finger to the side of your head and pull your thumb trigger. Yeah mom, I know. You've told this story before. But she never stops the story because really, she's not telling it for you, she's telling it for herself. To remind herself. To remember. I understand that now.
But in the re-telling of this tale, as the years roll on and it becomes Bielanko legend, I don't really want to focus on the fire part. It's the aftermath that's the most important. How thousands of people reached out to us and carried us through the worst time of our lives, not only by helping financially but emotionally. I received dozens of emails from as far away as Australia offering words of support. It still blows me away to think about it and has permanently changed my view of the Internet. You guys are like family to me. Anybody reading this, now, is like family. The fact that you care enough to get to this paragraph makes me happy. Even the ones who read because they hate me. Especially the ones who read because they hate me because that kind of thing is almost comfortable to me in a dysfunctional family kinda way. Yes, even you, Miss Noir.
Anyway, I'm doing well. Feel better than I have in a long while. For the first time ever in my married life I live in a place I adore. A place I know I want to raise my children. A place that's comfortable and safe and in the most beautiful area I've ever lived. A place just three hours from New York City, the city that excites me like no other.
Last night as I dropped the needle on Billie Holiday and watered the hanging baskets on the front porch I watched Serge and Violet chase fireflies (lightning bugs, they call them here) and realized that this is what I want to do until I die. Live in a big ol' farmhouse in the country and do my thing.
The record I was listening to is called Strange Fruit, which could be a blog post in and of itself, and it will be. But one of my favorite songs on it, I'll Get By, suddenly made a lot more sense, you know?
Go head, listen to the song and check out some of the photos I took last night while watching my family play in the yard in front of our new/old house on a lazy summer evening.