SPECIAL REPORT: KIDS KORNER

Many fire survivors were young children when they lost their homes, and now they are teens. What was it like for them? Here is what stands out for two of them.

Ugly Blue Carpet

As a child, I was very low to the ground. Some might say that at 17 and 5’1”, I still am. But then, more so than now, I spent virtually all my time as a peach-colored stain on the floor. Naturally, I grew very attached to the carpet.

Unfortunately for my parents, it wasn’t exactly the most stylish rug ever. It was worn and stained—all the bounce had long since been crushed out of it. The boots of endless armies of toy soldiers had pried its yarn up and out until it had the consistency of the Community Park, complete with crab grass. But, most startlingly, it was bright blue: as though the sunny San Diego sky had taken up residence in our house. Or thrown up all over it.

My parents were largely ambivalent toward the carpet, in a resigned sort of way. This did not stop them from leaping at the convenient reflooring opportunity the fire presented them. They would not be trapped matching the furniture to a baby blue base twice! I, predictably, threw a fit.

Here was where I drew the line: I could tolerate new, totally inoperable light switches and an unfamiliar bed, but did they have to update the carpet too? Their “choices”—for they weren’t really choices at all, but compromises on a singular

theme of beige—were all so colorless! A tan desert to replace my lovely ocean, or a bog of mud if that was unacceptable—the unholy union of their beige monster and my beloved sky.

I fought them on it, but only briefly. I was well aware that this was a losing battle. My last ditch suggestion that we keep the old carpet in my room only was quickly vetoed, and life went on. It was much easier to focus on recompiling my collection of stuffed creatures, and gradually I came to forgive the new upholstery its blandness, even appreciate its fluff.

Still, years later, it is not my plush miniature palm tree that I miss, or my authentic space-letter—penned by the hand of Buzz Lightyear himself. It’s the half-melted toy Indian, deformed by too many hot afternoons spent in the car—which I could never quite replace, no matter how many Happy Meals I searched—and the ugly blue carpet he used to journey across.

Grace Klein, 17 Years Old

A Toddler’s Adventure

I was 3½ years old when the Cedar Fire burned down my house. I don’t have many memories of the day of the fire, but there are a lot of things I remember about our life after the fire. I remember that we moved to a condo in Sabre Springs. I made a lot of friends there. It seemed like every day was my birthday because so many people gave me new toys and clothes. When it came time to move into our newly built home, I didn’t want to go.

I thought that if I moved, I had to leave all my toys and clothes behind. That’s how it worked the last time! But looking back at it now, the whole experience seemed like more of an adventure than a tragedy.

Jordan Winston, 13½ Years Old