House fire: The Fantastic Crop of Mould
"You'll be back in your home in three months." We took the insurance adjuster's advice and started looking for a place to live. A place available immediately, furnished, that also allows for a teenager, a large (docile) dog and a rambunctious cat. Finding a place to rent on the island isn’t simple, especially if you own a dog and a cat. One man abruptly told me that no matter how much we could pay, he wouldn't rent to someone with animals. But thirty years of friendships pulled us through. Friends offered attics and basements, and even a woman with animal allergies offered her home. Then someone knew someone who might be willing to rent his place – and it worked. We had a house for four months. Plenty of time (we were told) to rebuild.
Four months later we found ourselves packing up our borrowed things. We were moving into a place for the summer. We were still being assured that our home would be ready in a few weeks, but we had our doubts. First of all, our roof hadn't been finished yet, and houses usually need roofs. Then there are floors and walls; we knew those would be handy. So, after much trail and error, we found a sweet little house at normal summer rates. Which means an amount twice what we normally earn each month. Which means that either we have a very low income, or that Saltspring is the next Long Island.
But back to timelines. We often wished for an old-fashioned community "barn-raising" instead of the excruciatingly drawn-out process we now faced. For two months our blackened, sodden shell of a house sat there, growing a fantastic crop of mould. Our insurance company had two off-island contractors give us bids for rebuilding. When we got their list of references, we spent a week phoning each and every person .We heard stories – about both companies – that were sometimes hopeful and positive, and other times filled with frustration and bitterness. We couldn't choose, so flipped a coin. Then flipped it again, and went with the two out of three. After notifying the "winner" we then waited. And waited. I finally made a desperate phone call: the slime on the burned mattress was starting to walk on it's own, so could the sludge please be removed before it morphs into a life form?
In the ninth week, guys with shovels came and mucked out the mire. A stack of 2’ x 6’ appeared. Scorched timbers were pulled down and real work began. You'd think we'd have been overjoyed, but it was still a very emotional time. This was our home, built by our own hands and the hands of fine carpenters. Every piece of wood had a story. My husband knew where he'd scavenged this or traded for that, remembered buying resawn from Halvar at Mouats Lumberyard. Our mullioned windows had been saved since the sixties. Brian Hutchings had built us maple kitchen cabinets and a gleaming pine bedroom. Don Krye and Phil Grange had built an addition. This brisk new crew could rebuild our house up to current code, but I disagreed with the project manager’s insistence that it would be better than our old one. Houses are homes, and homes are full of love. These naked rafters were not yet our home, and we wondered if they ever would be.