On Memorial Day weekend a devastating fire raged through the Portsmouth home of my daughter Alex. Today, with husband Tim and children Max, 14, and Maddie, 10, they are starting life anew in a rental home one mile from the house on Maplewood. Building permits have being issued and reconstruction is about to begin, with a completion date of early June.
For two and a half months, the family lived in a Residence Inn with Lucy, their yellow Labrador. “As low as we felt, as cramped as we were, the kids rose to every occasion,” Alex says. “They had to share a king size bed, they had no yard to play in, they never complained. Tanya, the breakfast maid, knew their names and always cheered them up, and Maddie LOVED having waffles many mornings.”
Alex is still incredibly touched by the countless and thoughtful kindnesses her family received. Because the fire happened at night, they escaped wearing only pajamas and slippers. When they got to the Residence Inn the following evening, relatives had already stocked their room with toothbrushes, shampoo, toiletries, pajamas, milk and snacks in the refrigerator, fuzzy warm blankets for the kids. “We had nothing and this meant so much,” Alex said.
Over the first month in the hotel, every member of Alex’s Girl Scout Troop 10368 showed up at the front desk with bags of clothing, games, flashlights, even pet supplies. “They brought leashes, food bowl, tennis balls and dog chow for Lucy — it blew me away,” Alex said.
But what she cherished most was receiving more than 150 individual hand-made notes from members of the Green and White Mountain Girl Scouts, a 20-troop federation. “Every girl drew happy pictures and wrote encouraging words like ‘We hope your family is okay.’ Several included gift cards but what I most appreciated was the time those girls spent making the cards.”
Two weeks after the fire Alex drove to the Portsmouth Public Library. “We had a fire at our house,” she explained, “and I know the kids had a bunch of books but….” The librarian quickly cut her off and told her, “No problem, you owe us nothing, your slate is clean, and here are four new cards we had made up for you.”
Neighbors dropped off sweatshirts and jackets. Relatives sent clothes for Max and Maddie. Their pediatric dentist mailed a gift card to be used at different restaurants in Portsmouth. Other friends delivered gift cards to Target and Home Depot. The largesse was endless.
“And we are fine!,” she insists. “We had so much, and most of it was destroyed, but that was just ‘stuff.’ People think we lost everything, but I feel today we have everything because we are all here. I’ve come to realize how little I truly need.”
“I’m glad we had a large fire safe in our basement which held and protected our passports, birth certificates, some wedding photos. I wish we had put more of our photos in the cloud but I’ve discovered that Shutterfly photo books CAN be reordered.”
Shortly after the fire, Tim posted this on Facebook: “Our family is strong. We are adaptable. We still have a sense of humor. There is always a bright side and we will find it. We are MacCannells. It’s what we do.” Indeed they will. The family on Maplewood will be more than okay.