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A month ago, we were running out of our apartment, valuables in hand, pursued by smoke.

Tommorrow, we’ll be walking into a new apartment, filled with boxes. Unpacking, sorting, rearranging, and hopefully, giving away of our stuff will begin. Life, post-fire, will go on, and we’ll settle back into the daily and forget the dramatic.

The dramatic is actually the best place to start this post: we went into this month of living with kind friends, sans stuff, not knowing how much, if anything, was recoverable. At work, a well-meaning man expressed his dismay and offered to do a fundraiser, citing the terrible year I’ve been having. First, he moaned, I got married, and then, my husband lost his job, and now this!  I politely vetoed the fundraiser plans, laughing to myself that the first tragedy, in his mind, was getting married.

People reacted to the news of the fire with sympathy and shock, offering help and asking for details.

And, as usual, the details are far less spectacular than expected. There are no tragic losses, no ruined photographs, no mementos gone missing.

A few days after the fire, four industrious ladies, hired by our insurance company, marched into our smoky apartment and packed it up from scratch in a single afternoon. It was a marvellous sight to behold. And while we enjoyed the company and cooking of good friends, our stuff went through rehab in a Richmond warehouse, and then was handily delivered to our new apartment, where it patiently waits for our arrival.

I was listening to the wind late last night, and thinking of our ‘stormy’ year. Right before the fire, I was battling the cockroaches and the neighbours, dreading another week of work and routine, weighed down by recent sorrows and complicated relationships. It’s as if the storm lifted my husband and I up and away, a cold wind blowing us out of our circumstances and into something new.

And I welcome that bracing wind with all my heart.

The fire is the best “worst thing” that could have happened to us.

We’ve got a brand new place, minus the mice. All of our belongings, from the minute (they even saved our old bus transfers) to the major, are professionally cleaned, and in some cases, repaired. Every item of clothing has been drycleaned, a feat that we could never have afforded.

And most refreshingly, we had a chance to remember sweeter times through our reduced circumstances. We were staying in my old university room, and many an evening this past month my husband and I would laugh and savour our courtship, remembering the wistful but necessary parting goodnights, the dramatic days, the breakthrough moments of friendship and trust.

A month without clothes, and the burden of stuff, has also refreshed me. I am conscious of how little we need to be content. Life went merrily on without my shoe collection, my favorite dishes, and my special shampoo.

I have ambitious plans to give away much of what I did not miss. Each box that I unpack will come under serious scrutiny, with much of it being repacked or given away.

So while we are surrounded by lists – of things to unpack, of things to replace, of things to catch up on, I’m making a different list.  A list of things I’m so happy to let go of, a list of thankfulness for fire, for loss, for unsettling times and second winds.