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Letter 4 - The Literary Graces Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   

My book club was incredibly supportive, helping to find temporary
housing within two days after the fire and boundless friendship, love and kindness

Dear Montecito Book Club Best Friends for Life!

It is the eve of the five month anniversary of the Tea Fire and I wanted to send you all a very belated letter of appreciation for all that you have done for me as well as an update.  Coincidentally, as I write this it is Easter weekend and Andy and I had moved in to our first house together exactly 16 years ago. Also, as I write this the boys returned this afternoon from the east coast to honor their grandmother who died on March 26th.  Andy now lives without a permanent home and no parents to call for moral support.  His mother was generous and sent him many boxes soon after the fire.  We did not expect her to pass so quickly. She actually sent me a photo of the boys for Christmas which Andy and I are using to honor the boys in the Crane yearbook this year.

I am writing to you as part of my Tea Fire Anthology, stories of healing and all the good that has come out of the devastation after the fire.  The sadness associated with the fire still freezes the blood in my veins.  The way I keep the blood flowing is daily exercise, which often includes a walk or run on the beach with the boys, Aro or a friend.  I now regularly train with Michelle at Platinum Performance on Mondays and with Craig and his women’s group in Summerland on Thursdays.  My sleep is exceptionally erratic.  I miss my bedroom that had recently been redone with a garden theme with painted feathers floating down one wall and birds’ nests decorating some of the table tops.  I miss the huge pillows and the grand iron bed that my grandmother had given to me as a wedding present.  In the near future I will find a way to restore my favorite quote somehow in my life that was painted above the French doors to the garden:

Whatever you can do, or believe you can do, begin it now. Genius has boldness, power and magic in it. Begin it now!" - Goethe

My front entry way on Whitney Avenue is flowing with heart stones that I have found on the Summerland Beach.  The heart stones are for my boys, for my friends like you and my future.  I try to block out images in my head of the various rooms and what was left behind to turn into piles of rubble and ash.  Izzy Greer has created art, bringing new life to some of the pieces that we saved.  I also remember the parties in the garden and playful times the boys had juggling a soccer ball or relaxing in the hot tub.  This weekend I actually picked three stems of gladiolas from the unmanicured gardens on Coyote Road. 

I have to push forward and trust that much good has already come from all of this. Still, five months later I am dealing with insurance issues on a daily basis and the unknown reality that I do not have a permanent home.  Right now I should be organizing my rental which is for sale for a showing tomorrow, but I am procrastinating, preferring to write to all of you. 

I was originally offered this wonderful, fully furnished retreat within days after the fire, thanks to Pippa’s clever tactics.  My landlords were amazing.  Jane flew in from Chicago a few days before Thanksgiving to arrange the house for the boys and me.  We were settled 13 days after the fire.  In those early hours and days right after the fire, Michelle and her family took the three of us under the wings of her family and gave us her guest house for us to call “home” while we looked for a new place and contemplated our future.  Aro and Teddy became fast buddies. 

As you know, on the night of the fire, it was Ann who called to ask me to look out my back door to see if there was a fire.  Travis was sitting at their dining room table doing his homework with the majestic windows framing the Tea Gardens.  I am not  sure what time Ann called – close to 6:00pm.  Days after the fire, I had no recollection of talking to Ann.  The first ten minutes or so, probably more, I was in shock, utter shock.  How much time did we have?  There was so much to think about.  I had to call Andy to have him get Peter at a soccer practice.  I never thought about having him drive to his own house so that he could pack his computer and other belongings.  Someone else could have picked up Peter for us.  I didn’t even think to offer to get Travis; I didn’t think to call my neighbors.  I was in survival mode. 

I knew that the fire was coming straight for the house, but I believed in positive thinking and tried to pack calmly with and for William. The two of us packed for nearly an hour, until the car was full.  I had some clothes for all of us, but not the essentials like underwear, bras, boxers, socks and things like that.  I do remember thinking about what could be purchased later.  We left behind William’s lacrosse bag at the front door.  The boys needed to replenish their shorts, but in mid-November shorts were very hard to come by, especially even at least one pair that the boys would find acceptable. I left behind shelves and shelves of books and so much more.

All of you have played incredible roles in my life over the past couple of years.  I have shed many tears, too  many tears and all I can say is thanks for listening and understanding and trusting and opening up your homes and your hearts to me and all of us.  Thank you, Georgette, for helping me stock up the boys with clothes.  Thanks for calling and asking what I needed, even those potential new dates!  Susie and I have laughed together on many occasions about just that.  I have enjoyed sitting in her kitchen and eating whatever new recipe she happens to be testing that night.  Food has not been on my list of necessities.  I still struggle to cook in a kitchen that is not mine.  I cook for the boys, never for me alone, cereal, yogurt, strawberries and cheese and crackers are just fine!

I remember the Book Club gathering at Michelle’s right after the fire – I think it was that very next Tuesday.  Right?  The The Zookeeper’s Daughter which was by my bed on the night of November 13th.  You were all incredible that night with gifts and acts of love as we dined on Hungarian stew.  Jill, offered a gift.  A gift that is helping me realize one dream and by the end of this month, I hope to have a second draft of Pablito and the Speckled Bear.  My illustrator, Ben Cicatti, also lost his house on the night of the Tea Fire.  We are close to having all of the illustrations ready to download onto iBooks.  To have an actual book in my hands, reminds me to believe anything is possible.

Then, in December, one of the greatest gifts of all, the lunch hosted by Susan.  Again, the incredible warmth from all of you, heated the blood to help it flow throughout my weary body. We gathered at her dining room table for salad and quiche and some more Hungarian stew and the piece de resistance, boxes and boxes of books, not new, but from your own homes, your own hearts,.  You helped to replenish my collection, including my 2007 choice, Marie Antoinette’s Abundance, my 2008 choice, Housekeeping, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, The Alchemist, Easter Island, The Glass Castle, and so many more.  I often wear a bracelet that Susan gave me for peace which soothes my soul every time I wear it.  Josie, you are new to our book club, ironically in October, you were lost coming to my house.  Maybe your own intuition kept you at bay that night.  Your endearing smile and words of concern have also been deeply felt.  I love the way you listen, with 100% attention. You and Greg have made your new home in Santa Barbara and I am so glad that you found your way to us.  Our group is special, so very, very special and I wanted to find some time and some words to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you and acknowledge the role that you have played in this healing process.  I can’t even begin to thank you enough.  I do know that my life has not exactly been as I would have planned and there are times when it feels like an impossible task to read a single word in a book, but I try to plug away with the hopes that I can lend a few intellectual comments to our conversations.  We have had some great book reviews and discussions at our dining room tables over the years and I would not trade a single Tuesday night once a month for anything, except as it might relate to William and Peter.  Right now, they are the loves of my life. I wish I had the answers for them to make this all easier for them, but they are troopers and I am thankful for that.

To all of you: Michelle, Ann, Georgette, Jill, Josie, Michelle, Susan and Susie –




Your friend for life, Melissa

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