Burning the Candy House

Tanya Ward Goodman

By Tanya Ward Goodman

Setting the candy house on fire fulfilled my son’s need to burn stuff and my need to clear the house of holiday detritus. It was a win-win situation.

I’ve decided to let this burning candy house be a symbol of all of my New Year’s resolutions. I have resolved to be more fun, to be more adventurous, to trust my children more, to keep a cleaner house and a more creative mind.

When I was a kid, we burned stuff all the time. Of course I grew up in the mountains where some of our friends relied solely on woodstoves and kerosene lamps for warmth and light, so often we were burning stuff just to get by. I have deep sensory memories of holding a lit incense wand to Styrofoam plates, letting the orange heat eat away bits of white. The aroma of patchouli combined with melting plastic was absolutely magical (if not more than a little toxic). My brother and I spent hours lighting candles and letting the wax drip hypnotically from one place to another, pinching the edges of one candle to form a reservoir then slicing into it with our fingernails to let the molten contents spill. We dipped fingertips into the hot wax, braving the sudden heat so that we might then peel off fingerprint castings, each whorl wholly our own.

“You were so lucky,” my kids say. “You nearly died every day when you were a kid.”

We burned piles of leaves and piles of wood scraps from my dad’s workshop. We had bonfires in the backyard and my dad regularly poured paint thinner into the fireplace just to see the burst of flame. On the 4th of July, the grown ups set off illegal fireworks and shot batteries through a plywood target with a cannon powered by M80s – tiny explosives powerful enough to take off a man’s hand.

Once my brother put a pile of firecrackers under a coffee can and the thing blew up into the air and cut a slice across the bridge of his nose. The face bleeds a lot.

“It’s good to do dangerous things,” my kids say.

And it is. It’s good to feel the heat of fire and see how quickly it can eat through a sturdy candy house. It’s good to witness this kind of power and feel like you have a little bit of control over it.

I resolve to be more fun and to be more creative. I resolve to let my children feel like they are risking their lives a little, while also doing my best to keep them safe.

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