Like thousands of Butte County residents, Luanne Hiney lost her house in November’s Camp Fire. But she didn’t lose everything.
Her daughter, Makenna, went back to their old home twice to pick through the rubble and charred remains. She was looking for the perfect Christmas gift.
She found it. Makenna pieced together several broken coffee mugs from the home site into a mosaic, which was delivered to tears and an enthusiastic response from Luanne on Christmas morning.
“That is so cute,” Luanne said after opening her present in a viral video on Twitter.
Madisen Hiney, 20, said her 16-year-old sister Makenna created the mosaic for their mother, who Madisen said is known for collecting coffee mugs.
“Anyone who knows my mom knows how much she loves collecting coffee mugs,” Madisen Hiney said. “It became something we all liked, we’d joke about needing to make more space in the cabinet but there was a memory attached to each one.”
Luanne Hiney lost the majority of her mugs when the Camp Fire burned down the family’s lower Magalia home.
Madisen Hiney said her sister came up with the idea after their dad visited the home site and brought back some mementos from when he was in the Army, some Christmas ornaments and some mug fragments.
Makenna Hiney visited the home site two more times to get enough material to make her mosaic. Her Chico High ceramics teacher let her work on the mosaic during class instead of her final two projects.
When Luanne opened the gift on Christmas morning, she started crying.
“She opened it and immediately started crying, she couldn’t stop saying how much she loved it,” Madisen Hiney said. “She was emotional looking at the pieces of her coffee mugs, I think it was a good reminder of the memories behind them.”
Luanne Hiney’s husband also gave her the mailbox from outside their Magalia home for Christmas, though Madisen Hiney said the best gift of the year was the mosaic.
“My dad and I couldn’t beat my sister, she sorta won Christmas,” Madisen Hiney said.
The family is now staying in an apartment in Chico, which they found with the help of Luanne Hiney’s employer.
“It was really hard at first for all of us, to be displaced so quickly,” Madisen Hiney said. “You don’t realize how much a house means to you until it’s gone, your foundation becomes shook when your house is gone.”
For now, Madisen Hiney said, the mosaic is a good reminder of the memories the family had in their old home.