Posted by: Kate | March 2, 2011


We’re rather a bunch of pyromaniacs, those of us living here. So far the kids have kept it relatively low-key: helping my mom feed bonfires in her backyard firepit, and lighting candles at the dining room table. (Well, OK, and the one time Jacob poured the lit candle from the bathroom counter into the toilet, thus learning what happens when hot wax meets cold water. And Emily had a match-striking incident on the bus… fine, consider them each as having taken one little step onto the Serial Killer Triad. As long as the cat remains unscathed and the bed linens remain on a normal wash cycle, I’m not too worried.)

They come about it honestly, of course. My mom spent well over a year gathering bricks to build her firepit, asking everyone she knew who traveled anywhere to bring her back a brick as a souvenir. Thus a brick from the wall of the Vatican City sits in the backyard of a small town in upstate New York, carted through a couple weeks’ backpacking tour because I was young and stupid and willing to go to great lengths to avoid spending money on souvenirs. Then when we bought our first house, Willem and I ignored the horrendous living room wallpaper, ignored the blah-mauve bedroom walls, ignored the bizarrely laid-out laundry room… but immediately designed and poured a goat-wire-reinforced concrete firepit of our own. Priorities, you know.

Every year, we would take down the Christmas ornaments sometime in January, and drag the tree out to the backyard. Then we would wait… and wait… and wait, past the season-opening fire sometime in April or May, past a couple of weekend parties in June, and then, on the fourth of July, we’d torch that sucker. Thirty foot flames, and every time I would have just a moment’s understanding of why someone might go off on an arson binge. Because, man, are those flames intense. The last time we did that, the Something-or-Other of the Keene Fire Department happened to be just across the thin strip of trees that separated our yard from the athletic fields where they put off the town fireworks (making our deck a fabulous spot to watch from, especially if you’re into getting pelted with the occasional low-flying spark), and he came marching over to make sure that we had a properly-poured, permanent base, and the right permit to be burning, and so on. He was so, so dejected, walking back across the treeline; he just knew he’d caught us screwing up, and he was so disappointed not to be able to write any tickets on our property that night.

That fire pit created quite the dramatic experience when it came to selling the house… that story has already been told, here, so I won’t repeat it. Except to say, unbelievable.

The very last fire we had, there, was one of the saddest and most profound moments of my life. When I was pregnant with Jacob, I spent two long stretches on full bedrest: five minutes per hour, I was allowed to get up to use the bathroom or grab a snack, and only take a shower if Willem was home. So I was seriously isolated and completely heartbroken when my friend Kelly’s husband died in Iraq. They had gotten married only a month before he was deployed, he was less than a month from returning home, and she was living alone in the nether regions of New York State – near where I went to college, which means near absolutely nothing – and there was just nothing I could do. After a bit, I was off bedrest, and she moved back to Keene to finish her doctorate and grieve around friends, and so we began a habit of having her over for dinner on Wednesday nights, followed by an episode of Friends.

Jacob was born at the end of July, and a few weeks later marked Kelly’s first anniversary, to be celebrated alone. So we had her, and several of her closest friends, over, for a ceremony of sorts. We learned that if you save the top layer of your wedding cake to consume on the first anniversary, it had best not be with a fruit filling, and we drank sangria, and we cried a lot. We had a bonfire, and notes were written to her husband, tossed into the flames for direct delivery.

We never got around to having a bonfire the next year, what with planning a move and then the various nightmares associated therewith. And I’m OK with that, because it makes that last fire just a little more poignant.

We weren’t able to build a firepit at the next house, just too small a yard, too many trees nearby. Maybe at the next house… because it just doesn’t seem right to restrict our children’s urge to burn.

Hey, look, I’m back in the Madhouse again. It’s a little game we play on Wednesdays, when we get around to it…

Allison – Allimonster Speaks
Barb – Spencer Hill Spinning & Dyeing
Batty – Batty’s Adventures in Spooky Knitting
Dave – Notes from the Field
Eileen – Art Deco Diva Knits
Evil Twin’s Wife – The Glamorous Life of a Hausfrau
G – Not-A-Box
Haley – Aimless Tangents
Jennifer – Ask Poops, Please
JMLC – Daydreams and Ruminations
Kate – One More Thing
LC – LC in Sunny So Cal
LeeAnne – This is the life…
Lisa – As If You Care
Louise – Child of Grace
Marcy – Mittentime
Melanie – usually, things happen
Nikki – Land of the Free, Home of the Depressed
Peri – knitandnatter
Sara – yoyu mama


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