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I'm a skeptic when it comes to symbolism and interpreted meanings.

So, when my childhood home burned down in last year's wildfires, I held my mom, and patted my dad's back. "These things happen...we'll sift through everything, salvage anything that's left, and you'll have a brand new house before you know it."

Hundreds of homes burned that Sunday. Our house wasn't any different, and our family wasn't any different than the others. We all gathered in our respective neighborhoods, comforting one another, coming to grips with what had transpired. After all, living in the foothills has its risks...

Dad and I had gloves on. Mom was still too shaken up to help out - so we volunteered to search the property for anything that hadn't burned. There wasn't any structure left; the cast iron wood-burning stove was about the only thing still standing...even the piano keys had melted.

The china didn't burn, but it did break when the hutch went up. I should have expected that. There wasn't anything recognizable left in the house. Sure, we found the special silverware - in a series of silver piles throughout the "pantry." I even found Dad's wedding ring - tarnished - but recognizable. Everything else was toast.

Stucco doesn't burn. The wood beams and drywall go up in a hurry, but the steel honeycomb that the stucco is molded to just turns an ugly brown, and collapses inward once its support is gone. When I got to mom and dad's bedroom, I had to break up the outer wall - all stucco - that had collapsed in on top of their bed.

Yeah, the bed was gone. The entire inside of the house burned once our neighbor's tree lit our roof on fire. I imagined their bedroom burning, ending in a final "whoosh" as the lack of oxygen inside pulled the walls down. Nothing could have made it through this heat...

I finally got that damn wall broken up, and started peeling back the layers. "Goddamn. Even the tile's melted in spots." Dad came over to help me move the wall.

"Whoa. Dad, look at that. Where was this thing sitting before the fire..? It's right on top of your bed.."
"I have no idea. I've never seen that before."
"I can't believe it made it through this heat. Maybe it was in the attic?"
"Nah, the attic stopped over there by the door. But I never stuck this in the attic. Maybe your mom knows. Put it over there.."

We left a while later, and Mom wanted to come have a look at the "house." She was getting it together.

"Hey, Mom, come check this out."
"Where'd you get that?"
"It was sitting under the wall, right where your bed was."
She was silent.
"Where was it before the fire? Dad's never seen it before, and it couldn't have fallen from the attic and rolled all the way over here...it's ceramic. It'd have broken or melted for sure."
Still, she said nothing.

As Mom got in the car, she looked at me. "I'm going back to Dee's house...I'm not ready for this."
"Was it something I said?"
"It's tough, I know. We'll be over in a little while.."
"Your Dad said he'd never seen that before, either?"
"Yeah, but you know how Dad is.."
She paused.

"I'm going."
"Okay, should I keep it?"

"I've only owned one statue of the Virgin Mary - and she wasn't holding Baby Jesus. That wasn't here when we left the house."

This story is true...I still have pictures of the statue. Unfortunately, it broke two days later when the wind knocked it off a 6" ledge...

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