By Logan Wilson

When Charles Dickens wrote “A Tale of Two Cities,” he wasn’t thinking about Paradise and Magalia in Butte County. But when he famously opened with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he summed up perfectly how myself and, I suspect, many Camp Fire survivors feel this holiday season. We are thankful for life, a hope, and a future after such devastation, but that doesn’t outweigh the fact that it is the worst of times for many of us too. The price of perspective is often tragedy, and this tragedy has forced me to take an intentional look at my past and the trajectory of our family’s future – but this has left me in danger of missing the most important part: the precious moments in between.

Logan Wilson with his father and son eating breakfast
When I think about the past, I feel both pain and joy. It stings to reminisce about the pancake breakfasts I shared with my boys and Grandpa at Debbie’s Restaurant, or family gatherings at my grandparents’ house—both structures now gone. Yet, sifting through those recollections leaves me with a sense of peace and fondness for the people I was with and the moments we shared. When I look to the future, I see the hope of our family starting over, our three boys making new friends, and my wife and I getting to rebuild our home from the ground up. But in the nostalgia of reminiscing or adrenaline of planning ahead, I sometimes forget that now is what really matters.

I have often strained to create “perfect moments” for my family, but through this I’ve learned that life isn’t a movie; it can’t be fabricated, it can’t be forced, it can’t be staged. It can only be enjoyed in the moment and valued for all it’s worth. To all of you parents who are scrambling to find security for your kids and create a Hallmark-worthy Christmas to help them forget the recent past, take a moment to pause. Your kids need you now. Of course, they’ll need you in the future too—but they especially need you now.

Logan Wilson extended family photo

There is much to give thanks for this Christmas season, yet we have much to grieve as well. They really are two sides of the same coin, and one makes the other only more poignant. I personally am learning how to not ignore my own grief just because it’s the holidays, or because “there are others worse off.” We are not just rebuilding a town here in Butte County, but the foundation of fractured hopes and dreams of kids, moms, dads, and grandparents alike.

Please embrace the memories of times gone by—even if they’re painful. Dream about the future—even if fear or anxiety trickles in. But most of all, focus on the now. And don’t wait for the picture-perfect moment with Christmas lights and mistletoe to appreciate what and especially who you have around you. Make the moment now—because like we all learned on November 8th, things can change in an instant.

Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a fulfilling, joyful, and honest holiday season.

Logan Wilson works in the California rice industry. He, his wife, and three handsome boys have lived in Butte County for over a decade, and his family has roots back three generations.