After lunch, my kids decided to watch a video instead of sleeping, which, considering they're 6yrs and 4yrs, is acceptable and still gives me time to myself.
This time I used to get on the computer and get online.
It was a smoky day, but no more than the Wednesday before, after all, there was a bushfire near by.
1pm saw me making a comment in a chat room about how it looked like it was 7pm at night and I had to turn the lights on. *doesn't like the glare of the screen at night*.
By 2pm one of our neighbours came over and asked me to start watering things outside, like very dry bushes and what not, just in case.
So, off I went in search of our garden hose, which, after finding it, I connected to the tap at the front of the house. Being a garden hose, it was tangled, and being myself, I figured that giving it a decent yank would solve my problem. Wrong! It resulted in the whole thing comming off the tap, spraying water down the drain instead of on the garden. On closer inspection, the plastic attachment on the tap ad broken in half, leaving me with a useless garden hose.
A few well chosen swearwords later, I figured that the only glue within reach was the stuff I use to glue my nails on. Not the best, especially since it seems to come off in water. But.. it held! (It's still there, in one piece)
Once the front of the house was watered, and I felt really stupid, I went back inside, checked on the kids who were happy, and shut all the windows 'just in case'. Then I went in search of a link to put into the chat room, showing where the fires were and where I was located.
At 2:30pm I told the people in the chat that it looked like an airy type of really cool sunset, the whole sky was orange-red.
Shortly afterwards, my mother in law, who lives next to us, called to let me know that we (the suburb) had been placed on a state of emergency, and to get the kids ready in case we had to leave and to water the back of the house.
I then spoke to our other neighbour who told me that he works for the fire-brigade and that they had lost the Cotter Reserve (really nice spot for camping, etc) overnight. In theory, at that point I should have taken things more seriously, but it still felt unreal.
Feeling even more stupid than before, I went ahead and watered the back of our house, wondering if there was a right or wrong way to water a house down.
Once I came back inside, I checked on the chat room to find out that I had been disconnected from all messenger program probably because of the network from my cable connection was shot in the area.
And this is where it gets confusing. I remember shutting down the comp with my husband being in the same room, putting a long sleeved shirt on.
The moment he came home from work, he found me watering the front of the house, and I passed him the hose, telling him to continue while I got the kids ready. I then ran inside and told the kids to pack a bag with their favourite toys while I found them some cotton clothing and helped them dress and pack. Somewhere during that my mother showed up and helped. Then the power cut, leaving us in a house which was darker than most nights.
At that point mum grabbed the documents I had in my hand from me and told me to give her the kids. We then put the kids into her car, which was standing on the side of the road. And as the younger one screamed, we was the flames cross the grass area across the street from us. Once the kids were more or less safely in the car, I returned to the house and realised that the front door had slammed shut somehow. So I ran around the side of the house, up the stairs at the back and used the backdoor to get in. I briefly wondered why I was so unfit, not realising that the oxygen in the air was depleting with the increase of smoke.
I grabbed our rather large box of photos, and placed it next to the front door, just in case we needed to take it, before going back into our bedroom and wondering what else to take before grabbing my bag, my keys and the my cd case, which I almost pout down again, thinking it didn't matter, I could get everything in it replaced anyway.
When I got to the front door, it had slammed shut once again and my husband was about to run around the back after realising the door was shut. As I opened the door, I shouted at him that it was open, he shouted something back and told me to bring the box of photos.
As I carried the box to the car I felt how hot it had gotten, and saw the 2 foot high flames devour the grass across the road and jump the road, starting on our own grass here and there.
My husband went to get his mother from the house next door while I tried to shove the box into the backseat, too lazy at that stage to search for the car-key in my bag to open the boot and realising that we were almost out of time. He came back once with a small suitcase. "I'm going back to get mum" he shouted and ran off, leaving me to wonder exactly how I was going to fit the suitcase over the box and the children's car seat in the back.
Somehow, everything fitted and I got into the passenger side and shut the door. Seconds later, I sort of realised that it might be a good idea to start the car up to leave faster. So I went and found my own keys in my bag, surprisingly fast considering that it takes up to 3 mins at times to find them. Once I started the car I kept looking over to the passenger side, hoping for him to show up, and then looked out the back window. I remember screaming briefly as a gust of wind blew a shower of 2 inch long sparks straight down our driveway. I remember thanking God that my husband never parked directly in front of the garage, but slightly to the side, which was sort of protected by the bushes dividing our place from his mums.
Considering he still hadn't re-appeared and I had flames and sparks coming towards me, I knew that we'd loos the car and our only means of escape if I didn't drive the car out of our driveway. So I put her into reverse and the moment the wind let up slightly, flew up our driveway and parked the car in his mom's drive where I thankfully saw him helping his mum and her elderly neighbours into her own car, the fire not as bad here as it had been back home.
Finally he got into our car and we drove off. I briefly regretted having to leave my own car behind, knowing I had lost it before matt asked me to stop half way down the street to wait for his mum.
At that point I remembered the cat, who, as far as we knew had been inside the house. I regretted leaving her behind but knew there was no way of going back. When his mum finally showed up behind us on the road we left, the fires burning wildly on the left of us and the visibility being almost zero.
We knew, both of us, at that point that our house was lost.
Later, once we, the kids, myself, matt, his mother, her two neighbours and my parents were reunited, we watched as that part of Canberra got surrounded by fire.
At the time it seemed funny to me that the evacuation centre they had mentioned on the radio was complelty cut off from us due to the fire, and that all other routs of escape were cut off as well.
All that happened between 2:30pm and 3:15pm by 7pm we had gone back without the kids to see how the house had fared. It took several attempts and a good knowledge of Duffy to get around all the roadblocks, but we got there.
Our house had gone, so had my car and the next-door neighbours house, but matt's mums house stood, which meant that her cat had survived as well, for which I was glad.
The next interesting thing we saw was the fire engine 10 metres away from our house, the front end completely gutted, making us realise how bad it had really been.
Three weeks later, I'm finally finishing writing what happened on Saturday the 18th of January. For us it is the new start which we needed as we had come dangerously close to divorce after 8 years of marriage.
To date, the kids are fine and now have as much toys and clothing as before, if not more. The older one is a little more reserved than before, something I know will clear with time, the younger one in need of her mother more these days.
Strangely, I feel the loss of my car more than the loss of our cat, I guess I knew all along that the cat could not be found in time, cats aren't known for being predictable after all and know how to hide well.
The car was a present form my father in law before he died (enter date) now with it gone, so is the last reminder of him, I guess.
I wonder if things will return to normal someday, if this is the new normal, if I'll wake up one day at home, or if the place we're at now is home. If my children will be harmed by me returning to work, if I can actually work without forgetting even the simplest thing, like the date.
I have often gone through what happened, and wondered if there was anything I would have done differently, and the answer has always been no.
With winds of up to 180km/h driving the fires on, and the fire travelling 500metres in 2 mins towards our only route of escape, I know there was nothing I could do.