Originally created 07/03/03
Mount Glynnmoore is no more.
The jagged mound of branches, pine cones, leaves and other deceased plant life that had stretched up to the sky in our back yard like a drunken pyramid vanished last weekend in a wall of red-orange flames.
I stood by with a box of matches and a fire hose, playing both the pyromaniac and the fire marshal.
It took a couple of hours for Mount Glynnmoore to burn, leaving only a big, black crop circle on an otherwise green lawn.
I monitored the destruction with my rake, relocating branches so they would burn better, crushing out little flames that tried to get away. I shielded my face from the heat with a bandana.
Why Mount Glynnmoore?
Well, on a clear night, under a full moon, I swear I could gaze at the mound’s outline and pick out the faces of some of the lesser presidents. There was Millard Fillmore, and Andrew Johnson, and Herbert Hoover, and the Bushes.
As the pile of branches grew during the winter and spring, my wife gently suggested that I burn the ugly thing down.
Every time I tried to get a burn permit, the wind would rear its puffy head and I would be rejected. Last weekend, though, the time finally came. It rained in the morning, and in the afternoon, the air was still. Without my wife’s suggesting, I undertook the task.
By evening, Mount Glynnmoore was just a memory.
After the last flame was dead and the last ember snuffed, the yard looked bare. Not presidential at all. Just flat.
I went to sleep that night - and did not wet the bed.
Let me explain. All during my childhood, my parents had warned me that if I played with fire I would wet the bed. I was never told the connection between the two seemingly unrelated acts; I just had to take it on faith.
The warning didn’t always keep me out of trouble, I must admit. I set my share of fires, and once, after my friend Edward and I built a boyhood treehouse, he set it afire while I was still up in it. I did not wet the bed that night, either, although I can’t vouch for Edward.
As I tended the great Mount Glynnmoore fire, I looked back at my parents’ falsehoods. They had lied to me to get me to behave. What other superstitions and warnings was I fed in my parents’ effort to control and protect me?
Don’t walk under a ladder? Well, duh. Walk under a ladder and it can fall on you, as can a hammer or a paint bucket sitting on it.
Breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck? Breaking a mirror brings instant bad luck if you get cut by a sharp shard of glass.
Don’t let a black cat cross your path? Well, that figures; cats are just evil.
As I flashed back to a childhood of deception, my wife walked up, commented on my sour look and headed back to the house.
“Why is it,” I called after her, “that smoke always follows a person?”
It was a phenomenon I had always wondered about. She had not had to wonder.
“Smoke follows beauty,” she said.
“’Smoke follows beauty’?” I asked.
“That’s what I’ve always heard,” she said. “Smoke follows beauty.”
“Another childhood half-truth, no doubt,” I growled.
She shrugged, turned and walked back toward the house, the smoke tagging along behind.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.