The Inferno

Filed Under (Safety) by Estee on 04-03-2011

I haven’t written because I’m having nightmares. Last Sunday, the house I built with Adam’s dad (it took us from start to finish maybe three years and a bit) went ablaze. It’s completely ruined. The outer structure looks fine but the inferno shot flames twelve feet out of the garage. The entire inside is charred and burned.

I was the first to get the call. My neighbour/friend called me in trying to reach my ex, “Es, there’s twelve foot flames coming out of your garage!” she panicked in her othewise cheerful South African accent. I told her to hold on as I frantically tried to contact Adam’s dad who was in the air enroute home. I fumbled with my cell phone calling every number I could think of, and the people who might know where he was — my voice was urgent. Adam quieted as he could see something was wrong.

“You should see it, man! There are firetrucks and police cars everywhere. There’s so much smoke you cannot even see down the street,” said my friend when I called her back. She sounded out of breath and I noticed that my hands began to shake. I learned in the meantime that Adam’s dad would land with devastating messages on his Blackberry.

I could not go to the house right away. I knew it was being looked after. I could not go to the house where I moved my toddler-Adam into, now completely ruined. I went later after I gathered my thoughts and courage.

All I can think of since that time are the what-ifs — that stuff people tell you NOT to think about because thank God no one was in the house and everyone is safe, bit. It’s just a thing, some say. It can be replaced. While all of that is absolutely true, I do know that this new house Adam and I moved into rebuilt me. I know intimately, the value of space — how we shape it and it shapes us. I put every bit of my energy and spirit here to start our new lives…and it’s lovely, I have to admit. Adam feels at home here and we two cheerfully snuggle lots on our comfy couch.

Adam felt at home there, too. Adam’s dad and I have managed to keep his routines and environments as consistent as possible. So, we decided not to tell Adam about the fire or take him near the house. It’s not necessary to expose him to such tragedy when environments are so important to him and when he might fret over a disaster over and over like a bad commercial jingle we can’t get out of our heads. Thankfully, he is used to his dad’s parent’s house where they can stay when they are together. In the meantime, as his dad figures out what comes next, we can prepare Adam for his next move.

That’s the practical side of me. There’s that scared sick side, the what if side that is giving me nightmares, and yes, a grateful side that we are content in our new home, and that everyone is safe. It was a a disaster indeed, but a tragedy averted. It has opened my eyes — yet again — to the fragility of everything.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.