I’m was born in Paradise, CA and raised in Chico, CA. Last night I dreamt that I had to decide between 1 of 4 pugs to save from the fires. The first pug was perfectly healthy, a show-worthy pug, an adorable specimen, healthy and whole. The second one was missing an eye and at least 10 years old. The third pug was 3 years old, with a tongue that permanently hung from his mouth at least 4 inches. The fourth pug as 7 years old and deaf. I knew the likelihood of survival for any of these creatures was minimal. In the dream, I kept thinking I needed so save the pug that had the highest potential to live, the one without deformity. But what about the others? All 4 of them were sitting in a row, waiting for me to make a decision over which 1 to save. As I felt the heat from the flames get closer and the sky turned darker, the stress of which pug to save woke me up. Asleep on my couch, Katie was next to me snoring. I tried to wake her and explain that I was having nightmares about the fire, but she was too groggy to fully understand. This morning, as I recounted for Katie my decision about which pug to save, I started sobbing again.
These fires are devastating. As of right now, there are 23 confirmed fatalities, 110 missing, over 2,600 structures destroyed. I have an uncle, a cousin, countless friends, and their families that have lost their homes, pets, and everything they value in their lives. I spent much of Thursday watching evacuation updates, worried about the wind blowing fire down the hill toward the rest of my family and friends. I knew the possibilities were slim, but that doesn’t change the fear and potential for loss. This fire is still burning, only 20% contained. School is canceled until after Thanksgiving for the school districts in Butte County. I feel entirely helpless where I am, a fact that isn’t being dulled by passing time through sleep. Which pug do you save? Which fire do you fight?
Today, I spoke with my grandma and my grandpa. I haven’t talked to them in a very long time. With Katie coming out, I honestly haven’t known how to talk to them. I built this wall in my mind preventing my ability to explain my life to them because I was afraid of judgement. I have also been afraid of the questions I don’t have the energy to answer about Katie. This year, I’ve had to retreat into myself, pick my battles. With these fires, I really felt a need to talk to each of them, to tell them that I miss them and that I’m here. I knew they would each know how my family is doing, what’s needed for those who have lost everything. It felt so good to connect back to them, to call Katie by her name and not really worry about whether they understood who I was talking about. It’s strange to just talk about Katie without some sort of conversation about the fact they both watched me marry Kyle, but this is where we are. My mom once told me Grandpa now has rainbow suspenders. I forgot to ask him on the phone, but even if it’s not accurate, I really love the image of him in rainbow suspenders. That is a show of love I will never be able to translate completely for all of you by writing about it. Sometimes it really does take heartbreak to bring you back to your family.
All of that said, I am proud to be someone who can continue to write that I was born in Paradise. I’m proud to be from a community that is rallying so passionately and selflessly around those that have lost everything. I’m relieved that my loved ones were not injured and are accounted for. I’m so sorry for those that have lost more than mine. It’s in times of need that you really learn who is there for you, who has value. I’ve seen this first hand over the last year more than any other time in my life. Paradise is seeing that now. Chico is My Hometown.