I have a habit of trying to pinpoint the last time I did something – that last time I saw someone, went somewhere, took part in a ritual, made a certain dish. When I see fireworks or snow or I prepare for a hurricane or I ride a roller coaster, I visit the memories of every time I’ve done that activity before. I try to think when it was, who I was with, why it was meaningful.
Tonight, Amanda and I got inspired to make a fire in our outdoor fire pit. Let me explain something. We’re lesbians, but we are decidedly un-athletic, un-outdoorsy lesbians. We don’t like to camp, so while Amanda doesn’t have to think as hard about the last time she made a fire, I can safely say that it’s been years since I’ve tried to conjure a big, robust blaze from a match.
But we tried. And we failed. And we failed. And then we succeeded.
As I sat huddled under a blanket and chowed down on messy s’mores, I thought of the bonfires in my life. I remembered big fire pits at Lake Lanier Islands Magical Nights of Lights, a family tradition for many of my adolescent years. After driving through the huge light show, there was a gift shop, pony rides, and fire pits for roasting marshmallows. We got wise after the first year and brought out own skewers and s’mores fixins.
I thought of yearly bonfires at Winter Retreat, the church trip we took for a few days between Christmas and New Years. It was in Toccoa Falls, Georgia, and on one night of the trip, we would gather near the boat houses where canoes sat fixed in patches of ice by the docks, and we would roast marshmallows on a massive bonfire, shielding our eyes from smoke and huddling together under blankets.
I remember the last bonfire before tonight – it was down the street at our neighbor’s daughter’s birthday party. It was the same day that Amanda and I went and picked out our engagement rings. I sipped spiked cider and imagined a ring on my finger in a few days. Emily (our neighbor) told me after we announced our engagement that she had noticed we were both unusually quiet that night; when I told her that I was close to spilling the beans about our engagement a few times that night, she put two and two together.
Next year, I’ll move to California. The weather there right now is in the 70s. It’s 50 degrees here, and though the weather channel says it actually feels like 50 degrees, I disagree. My cold nose and toes disagree.
It is likely going to be awhile before I have a bonfire again, but when I do, I’ll be able to remember this one we had tonight: on a day when we bought a few Christmas decorations and some ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner, a day when we worked in the yard and ate a big lunch and checked Facebook and had a completely normal, calm, ordinary day. But it ended with a bonfire. It ended with the kind of novel event I remember.
And I’m happy to make the ordinary days novel enough to remember.