I pull the dress out of my closet and stare at it quietly.
I haven’t worn it in two years, not since a bright and sunny day in May when my world changed. It was, of course, the day that I saw my community in flames.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that it has been two years. There are days when the memories are so fresh I can still see the burning when I close my eyes.
And yet there are days when it seems such a distant memory.
Unlike last year, there have been no phone calls from radio stations wanting to check in on the anniversary this year. Not the radio station from New Zealand that I spoke to the night I evacuated my home, not the radio stations from Toronto or any of the others who checked in with me last year.
It’s been two years. They have moved on to new stories.
As I look at the dress I think perhaps I will wear it on May 3rd. Maybe that will be my act of defiance, my moment of showing that I have moved past the memories of that day.
But the truth is that the dress has nothing more to do with that day than any other decision I made on May 3rd, 2016; what I wore, what I ate, what I said – none of it would’ve made a difference.
And so I quietly put the dress back in my closet and I pull out another one. It is quite new, although I’ve worn it once or twice before. I pull out a pair of favorite Fluevog shoes and I feel satisfied.
In fact I feel at peace.
Perhaps moving on for me means no longer needing the acts defiance, the moments of commemoration or any act other than treating May 3rd like another day.
The memories will always be there. I know they will burn as brightly in my mind as the flames did that day. There is no escaping an experience of that magnitude; if I’ve come to realize nothing else I’ve come to recognize that.
But the memories no longer own me. Now, two years later, I own the memories. And instead of being the central character of my story, they are only a bit player.
I know that time does not heal all wounds. I have experienced the death of both my parents and I know that those are injuries that do not heal; but I do know that time lessens the sting.
And so two years later from a day that I will never forget I find myself instead remembering the day I came home and not the day I left. I will never forget how grateful I was for all those who fought for my community, all those who reached out with such kindness and generosity, and how we came together to rebuild, recover and reconnect.
And that is my story on May 3, 2018. Two years from the day of a bright, sunny morning when I put on that dress, went to work and never for a moment thought that my life would forever change through an experience I could’ve never predicted.
But that is life. Unpredictable, unexplainable, occasionally painful and yet so incredibly wonderful.
I look at the dress I have put back in the closet and then I close the closet door. I have finally come to the place where I can put the memories away and instead of looking back, look forward.
It is a good place to be.