Monday, February 9, 2009

The Legacy of Bushfire

When I was reasonably small I remember that each night I had a routine before going to bed.

I had to push my face up against the fly screen on the window, first one way, then the other, and check as much of the surrounding neighbourhood as I could see to make certain that there were no fires coming. (I would have loved to be able to take the fly screen out to be able to see better, but I don't think Mum and Dad would have appreciated that.)

If I couldn't see a fire, then my family would be safe to go to sleep. I don't know why I thought a fire couldn't come from the other side of the house, but I never felt the need to check beyond my own window. I'm not certain that Mum and Dad ever knew that I had to do this to protect our family (yes, typical oldest child - I was personally responsible for everything, including the safety of our family from fires).

Thinking about it, it was probably grade 4, because the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 would have happened in the first term of my grade 4 year. And that event (whilst I don't remember it) was widely reported across Australia.

There is no way I could have had first-hand experience of fire. I've never lost any possessions to fire. I've never lost anyone I love to fire. I've never lost a pet or my livelihood to fire. The only way I could have known about it would be from images on the news and the hushed tones in which my parents would have discussed it. And yet, it impacted on me strongly enough that every evening I had to check to make certain we were safe from fires before I could go to sleep.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all who are currently involved in the fires down south, particularly as the death toll rises with each successive news report.

And it might not be a bad idea for those of us in the rest of the country to have a word with our kids (if we have any) about the fires. Even if you don't think they can know about these fires, they may have seen an image on the TV, or heard discussion at home, school, or between grown-ups somewhere.

Having said that, I have no idea what would have put my childhood fears to rest. Eventually we moved and for some reason I don't remember needing to check for fires at the new house. All I know is that fire impacted on my life in a very real way from the safety of a couple of thousand kilometres away.


Givinya De Elba said...

Oh Jen. Fires. How horrible. I am choking back tears at the news this morning. Praise God you never saw any fires coming each night you checked.

Dee from Downunder said...

I think we do need to talk about the fires with our children. I am sure they wonder why I am crying watching the news the last few days

Swift Jan said...

I havn't really been exposing the kids to the news... Its too sad for even me to watch :(

Apparently my family was in Adelaide during Ash Wednesday. I dont remember it at all, my parents sure do. ANd it was pretty scary from what I can understand.

Kitty and Glen said...

Do you know something, I used to do the same thing before going to sleep, except my routine involved smelling the air for smoke. If I caught one whiff of smoke, even in the middle of winter, I couldn't sleep. And I don't even have the excuse of being the oldest child - I think being neurotic is my only explanation...

I'm in the UK, and the fires are the main story here. Everyone is asking if we have family or friends in the area, so it is actually good to know that people outside Australia honestly care about this.

Debbie said...

I am praying for your country and those terrible fires. I hope there is relief very soon.

Louisa said...

Great post Jen. I've received a couple of emails about talking to kids about the tragedies and you've inspired me to post their points. For those interested check my blog in an hour or so

Lilly's Life said...

Oh Jen cute story and I just heard on the TV that they found 146 more bodies today but they havent added those to the official numbers yet.