I saw the above headline in the email newsfeed and my mind went immediately to the annual bonfire . . . not the image the writer here had intended.
A few years ago, my girls and I decided to burn the school year. I can’t now remember the inspiration. Did we all have a difficult year? Was it the year Thea had that horrible teacher who tore her homework up in front of her because it had no name on it? Was it the year I was laid off? I don’t know exactly why we started it, but we continue it because it has felt like the right thing to do. We gather all the notebooks and folders and scattered papers from the year and slowly add them to the fire. And as we do, stories are passed around. “Oh, I loved this project. I got to work with my friends and we laughed all through Science class. Best week of science all year.” trailing into a series of silly anecdotes. “I HATE Skill Drills. I’m going to save these for when the flames are really big so it kills off all the yuck.” followed by a recount of the painful evenings spent completing this dread weekly homework. The girls and I slowly rehash the year, laughing at ourselves and at the absurdity of homework. Thea remembers when she completed the same assignments as her sister and they compare notes on how it went. And as she shares the work of her year she prepares Anya for what is to come.
As they go through the pile, the girls inevitably find some pieces they want to keep – the short story written in response to reading about the Holocaust, the poem that earned high praise from her peers, the history paper that took hours of research and writing, the doodles on the edge of the agenda book that are now turning into a scene in her latest story.
There are two reasons I love the annual Burning.
First, the ritual feels like clearing out the old and preparing for the new. It’s the Ash Wednesday to our Lenten summer; the ceremonial start of the season of cleansing and renewal.
But also, I love this ritual for the stories released by the flames. Instead of just stamping “The End” on the school year, we write an epilogue that wraps up the storylines and brings meaning to the chaotic action, connecting the otherwise random work.