Friday, September 4, 2009

Hurrah, Hurrah!

As of noon today all evacuation order and alerts will be lifted for the Clinton area. The fire is still burning but is no longer considered a threat to residents of the area. I can't tell you the joy and relief I felt upon hearing the news last night.

My parents were very lucky. When they were evacuated from our vacation property they simply moved back to their house in town. Although they have spent part of the time preparing for another potential evacuation, at least they were at home. Most of the other people in the area are permanent residents so they have been living in hotel rooms for the past two weeks, worrying about their houses and wondering if they would have to face evacuation yet again should the fire threaten Clinton itself. They must be thrilled to be returning home today, although I'm sure that happiness is mixed with trepidation. What will they find when they get there? The structures were all saved but some properties sustained considerable fire damage.

After my parents and relatives were evacuated I and members of my immediate and extended family assured each other that what really mattered was that everyone was safe, that if we lost the cabins we could always rebuild. There were even jokes about how we wouldn't have to sleep on that lumpy bed anymore or look at those ugly couch cushions (why do cabins become the repository of old, cast-off items, as though they aren't "good enough" to contain comfortable and attractive furnishings?). But the truth is that so many of our memories are wrapped up in the buildings themselves. Even though all four cabins have been remodeled and modernized over the years, at their core they are much the same as they have always been. The main room of what used to be my grandparents' cabin still contains the fireplace that my grandpa built, a collage of interestingly shaped and coloured rocks, interspersed with curios, such as tiny metal toy figurines.

The picture of my grandpa's big fish still hangs in there too.

A few years ago my youngest son gazed around the main room of our cabin and posed the question, "Do you think Kelly Lake will ever change?" I laughed and said that it had already changed a great deal over the years.
Before the addition of electricity and indoor plumbing we had had to use kerosene lamps, haul buckets of water, and visit the outhouse. Even the cabin we were sitting in had not been built until 1967 and since then it had grown to six rooms, instead of the original three.

What hadn't changed, I told him, was the feeling of the place. Since my grandparents purchased the property in 1943 what we call Kelly Lake (although the lake itself is almost a mile away) has been a gathering place for their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and now even great-great grandchildren. Every summer we would go to Kelly Lake and reacquaint ourselves with the aunts and uncles and cousins who lived hundreds of miles away from us; this tradition continues today. And now, thanks to email and sites like Facebook, it is even easier for the various generations of cousins to maintain relationships with each other. I'd like to think that if our cabins had burned in the fire the essence of KellyLake would have carried on; we would have rebuilt and continued to gather each summer from various corners of BC and Alberta and even farther afield.
But there is no denying that something would have been irretrievably lost. I can't imagine the place without the original cabins, the old garden swing my grandpa built,

or the shed with the wagon wheels that had travelled on the original Cariboo Road.

I'm glad I don't have to.

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