In August of 1975, I was 10 years old and preparing to enter fourth grade. I was living with my family in a small Northwest Oregon town. At the time there were six children in my family, five girls and one boy. We lived in a large two-story house that was over 100 years old on a corner lot.
I don't remember what day of the week it was, but my dad was at work and my mom was at home with the children. It was a typical summer afternoon, and those of us who were old enough were outside in the neighborhood playing with friends. Late in the afternoon, mom called us all together to go with her while she ran an errand. We moaned and groaned because ordinarily she would have left us playing since her errand was to the pharmacy just a few blocks away.
Packing up all the kids must have been part of a premonition because coming home we pulled over for the fire engine that was on its way to our house. We spent the rest of the evening huddled up across the street as a family watching helplessly as our home was demolished by the fire in spite of the fire department doing all they could.
The next couple of nights we spent with friends and neighbors. Then for a couple of months or so we stayed in a local motel with two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchenette.
By the time the holidays were upon us, we were anxious to be in our own home. We considered ourselves lucky to be able to move into the basement of our home while construction continued on the upper two floors. We were able to make three "rooms" usable. One was lined with donated beds for the children and one served as a room for my parents, the living room and kitchen area. The third was a make-shift bathroom.
As Christmas was in the near future, we made a place for a tree. Soon thereafter, several young women and their leaders visited us from a local church. They brought with them handmade ornaments for our tree made from blown eggs and rickrack. We worked together decorating our tree and our meager surroundings.
To this day I don't remember what kind of gifts were exchanged. What I do remember were the feelings of gratitude we had; that although our quarters were close, we were safe and together as a family for the holidays. Those simple but ever so thoughtful ornaments are still in the family and hung on the tree faithfully every year.