I’ve had these blue jeans for 3 years. Not an eternity, but long enough to feel nostalgic. I bought them at a Levi’s outlet in Las Vegas, shopping with my host family. The back pocket has been wearing out for a while. It’s always the first thing to go on jeans of mine. My wallet rubs a hole in it even while the rest of the pants look brand new. That’s not what’s done this pair in though. I put them on yesterday and discovered that the seam had come apart on the side and inch long slit of my extra-pale right hip was now visible. Clearly it’s time for them to go.
Here’s the thing. I was wearing these pants on the night the apartment burned down. Or rather, I put them on when the fire alarm went off, waking me up, propelling me out of bed, out of the apartment, into the cool night away from the smoky building. I worried about wearing enough to be outside for an hour or two – the jeans, my winter coat, a pair of real shoes, not slippers or flip flops – but I didn’t have socks, I was wearing the tank top I had been sleeping in, I didn’t grab my phone (although Jami did, thank goodness). You see I thought we’d be going back in – at first soon, then as the fire burned on, as I could see the firefighter leaning out our window, as the flames began to shoot out of the windows of an apartment down the hall from us, I thought we would be back in eventually.
There is something to be said for losing everything you own in a fire. I’m not being flip either. If you, like most people, have a complicated relationship to stuff: Objects you hate, but can’t get rid of because they remind you of someone or something… Things that you just don’t know what to do with… Knickknacks that you’ve totally forgotten you even ever had… Well, a fire simplifies those things. No decisions to make. No sorting to do. I miss some things, although less than you might imagine. And I feel lucky, blessed even, with how our life post-fire has gone. I had renter’s insurance, unlike 90% of my neighbors. We had already signed on the house, so we had someplace to move, and we were able to move up the closing and get settled even sooner. We (Jami, the dog, and I) were all safe and healthy and together. If you have to live through a fire (and I recommend that you don’t), you really couldn’t do any better than we have done. And I am so incredibly grateful.
It’s hard to say good-bye the jeans though. I still have the tank top I was wearing, the shoes, the winter coat. But I can see a point in the future, not even very far in the future, when I won’t have any of those things any more. And when that happens, I won’t have anything left that I owned in my adult life before the age of 29 and 3/4 – and that is just weird. Not bad. Not a thing to feel sad about – but still a thing that feels like it needs to be paid some deference, a strange quirk of my life that needs to be acknowledged.
I will miss those jeans.