Fire and Ice

My first wish was that the kids would forget all about the sky lantern. But my sweet, sweet niece was too, too excited for me to make a wish on her magical fire hazard birthday gift. After putting off the conspiring cousins for a few days with vague excuses, the last evening of their visit had arrived. “Let’s go light the lantern! It’s time to light the lantern!” and what kind of bitchy aunt shuns the thoughtful, wish-making gift of a 13-year-old girl? Not this one.

Sensing my reluctance, my brother-in-law accompanied us to a clearing and helped me prevent the fire-filled globe from getting caught in overhead branches and setting our own yard ablaze. Standing on dry grass, in the dark, lighting matches… I waited for Smokey the Bear to lope out of the woods and maul us for our stupidity. But finally, the paper thingy caught fire, the lantern transformed into a bluish floating orb of loveliness, and we let the thing go. Up and up and up until finally there was nothing left at all. Nothing… except, you know, the belly-churning worry over errant embers falling to earth to torch the golf course and murder my neighbors.

“Did you make a wish, Aunt Britt?”

“You betcha.”

No one die no one die no one die no one die.

I didn’t sleep that night. I spent hours googling the shit out of fire lantern safety and errant ember property damage probabilities. I offered up dozens of bargaining prayers to the Big Guy that I would make it to first light without hearing sirens. I was angry with myself for agreeing to anything involving a release of uncontained, floating flames into a residential area, I cursed the pyromaniac bozo who invented these things, and I felt guilty that my sweet, sweet niece probably sensed that her lovely gift had turned me into a googling, insomniac weirdo. My Cool Aunt cred plummeted as I proved myself to be just like all other worrywart grownups.

In the morning, a quick scan of the local news assured me that no lives or properties were lost. Only then, I was finally able to make fun of myself for getting all panty bunched over a completely legal toy when I spent hours of my own youth launching lawn darts, riding helmetless, and eating batter. And like everything, daylight bleaches the scary out.

Last night, I lost another few hours of sleep over the Ice Bucket Challenge. You’d think someone who is absurdly afraid of fire lanterns would be grateful to douse a potentially flammable yard. You might also think someone whose life has been touched with disease would be a cheerleader for this kind of awareness-raising. But for me, and possibly for my sisters in the Shitty Sorority, this echoes the Pinking of October wherein a crap disease gets tarted up for Fun. I’m actually thrilled that everyone is accepting the Challenge and raising MILLIONS of dollars for a horrifying, incurable disease. I love watching the videos of you gorgeous people being silly for good causes. It’s heartwarming to see social media being used to make us One Community during a time when the world seems like a terrifying shitstorm. I’m a sucker for Community. But here at the Lee’s, I don’t want to invite awareness for yet another illness that my boys might only process as one that has the ability to kill parents. (My quota for answering heartbreaking questions was filled after the opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy… my boys have had enough “awareness” reminders for one summer.)

Also, selfishly and smugly and shamefully, I have strong, I-gave-at-the-office feelings about Raising Money for Diseases. I mean, aren’t beloved body parts and a head of hair quite sufficient to exempt me from more giving? Of course, Murphy’s Law will dictate that when you try to explain your personal aversion to this viral, feel-good phenomenon, you will not only sound like an asshole, but you’ll–of course– be unwittingly lecturing someone who lost a loved one to this extremely rare disease and just finished filming an ice bucket challenge with her kids and, you know, thinks it’s sorta great and all that. So you not only sound like an asshole, you sorta are one. And God giggles having set up this little scenario to prevent Haughty Blog Girl from composing five, navel-gazing paragraphs about why the Ice Bucket Challenge is complicated for the cancered… forcing the admission of a likelier truth:

I’m vain and un-pretty wet and probably an awful person and would rather mail checks than create and clean up an ice watery mess.

In the meantime, my sky lantern wish is that the money we are raising funds scientific breakthroughs to extend the life and increase the comfort of those with ALS. I hope that backlash against the Ice Bucket Challenge doesn’t erode the sense of Community we need right now. And I want you all to promise you won’t light and release a single fucking sky lantern. Like, ever.

Gorgeous, glowing wish ceremony will always look like the release of terrifying fireballs to insane Aunt Britt.

Gorgeous, glowing wish ceremony will always look like the release of terrifying fireballs to insane Aunt Britt.

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