My first memory of a bonfire and hayride is when I was three. We were stationed in Killeen, Texas, and our church was having a fall festival of sorts. The only reason I remember this event is because there is a photograph of me bundled up with the multi-storey blaze on one side and the awaiting wagons of hay on the other. All pictures following that age up until I reached eighteen have either been secretly discarded or burned.
Tonight I decided to engage in this American tradition one more time. I arrived at Elk Creek Baptist Church around 7:30 this evening just in time to roast a couple of marshmallows and find a seat in the hay along with a couple of the college girls. I have been assisting in the college group at this church since I arrived in Kentucky. My valuable input ranges from explaining the historical manipulations of the Roman Catholic Church to the brainwashing of the young female minds to my way of thinking concerning America's flawed dating rituals and traditions. They mainly pretend to listen in rapt attention as I spew forth my stories, but I'm sure they're just endulging me, certain that I must be "verrueckt" (translation: a crazy historian overly zealous in meddling in the anthrolpological courtship habits of particular people groups.) But I appreciated their hugs and cries of how glad they were to see me when I arrived.
So there we sat together rumbling through the dark roads of rural Kentucky. The children in the back were singing various songs of Americana ranging from Take Me Out to the Ball Game ... to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Raindeer. Up front, the youth minister was recounting the prank he pulled last year on their former pastor. He and a couple of the seniors had strategically placed multitudes of plastic forks, prongs down, all over his yard. In the front, he placed potted flowers in an old toilet and urinal he had brought, upon which he proudly displayed the pastor's family name. To top it all off, he and the others wrapped the preacher's porch and garage in a wall of seran wrap.
Sigh. It was wonderful. The air whirled around us in the cool, crisp starless night. That's it ... that's one thing what would have made the night better. A clear view of a star-studded Kentucky night sky.
When we returned to the church, the bonfire was still blazing in the empty field. I grabbed one of the college girl's hands and began to run.
The distant blaze of the solitary fire in the darkness called to me. I became a warrior Indian princess. I rushed towards the flame whooping and hollering. All at once my Indian maiden form took flight, and I became a sparrow soaring through the night over the bare trees beneath.
Just as I reached my zenith, the earth's force reached out and struck me out of my flight. Limp, I came spiralling down to the earth, crashing, lying on the ground humbled in my earthbound form.
I turned on my back and gazed up at the sky from whence I had come and asked "why?". I turned on my side and saw the hands that had plucked me from the sky. The trees. They had reached out their arms, taking hold of my ankle and slammed me to the earth, jealous because their roots did not allow them to take flight.
"Christine! Christine! What happened!" the college girls rushed toward me in concern.
I turned on my back in a fit of giggles.
"We saw your shaddow running toward the bonfire and then you were gone!"
Wiping tears of hysterical laughter with one hand, I pointed with the other at the pile of logs that had been invisible to me in the night.
Just call me Crashing Duck.
When I returned to the dorm I told some of the girls who were gathered in the hallway. "Christine, even if you end up marrying a man with the personality of a rock, your children will be the most creative, imaginative creatures on earth!" exclaimed Heather from Iowa.
I can just hear him now ... "Honey, don't encourage them." or maybe it would be the other way around. "Kids, try not to get your mother worked up."