Leaf by leaf and page by page, throw this book away.

One of the reasons we’d been so intent on working on the fire pit area in our backyard is that, for a while now, I have been wanting to burn the journals I kept off and on from high school until about three years ago. It wasn’t for a ritual cleansing or anything like that. I’m not really romantic enough to be big on rituals. No, it was pure practicality. I didn’t want them around anymore. I didn’t want anyone to be able to find them and read them. In a small way, yes, it was about moving on and letting go of the past. I know I could have simply thrown them out, but I really wanted to make sure they were gone.

Mike, who once burned an old journal in the kitchen sink, understood my desire to get rid of the records of my not-so-exciting exploits. One of his goals this summer was to get the fire pit ready – ready for Birthday Weekend, ready to use in the fall, and ready for my journals. Saturday night was deemed the night, and my brother, being at the house, helped us start a really good fire. We then made him leave, since, well . . . journal burning is kind of private and needs no witnesses. He seemed to understand.

I had about, I’d say, 10 journals to burn. They weren’t all completely full. Some were daily journals and some were Bible study journals and some were notes I took on retreats or at meetings when I was in IV. Last year I went through and looked at a lot of it, and I decided it was just time to let it go. The daily journals were too embarrassing/incriminating, the notes on retreats didn’t all make sense, and I don’t really need notes from meetings that were held six years ago anymore. Mike and I ripped out page after page, crumpling them and throwing them into the fire. Occasionally he’d catch some words just as it burned, and I watched as he tried to make sense of it before it turned to ash. I read him my valedictory speech and snippets from the oldest journal. My personal favorite was when I started an entry by saying, “ER was a rerun tonight.” You can see how incredibly interesting my life was in high school.

I’ll admit it, there’s a part of me that is sad that so much history is now gone, but it’s definitely balanced out by the relief that . . . so much incriminating history is now gone. I’m not that girl anymore, not by a long shot. I did so much ranting and venting in those journals. Burning them was one more way of letting go of some of that baggage, of growing up. I don’t see things the same way that I did, I don’t feel or value the same things. It felt heavy to still have them around, as if I couldn’t really move on.

I was surprised, though, that after we had finished ripping out pages and sat down on the picnic benches, I felt kind of sad. All that time spent writing, and nothing to show for it but a lot of smoke and ash. I’m glad I didn’t do this earlier, in a fit of anger. It was planned out, and it was time. As we sat and watched the fire, I leaned onto Mike’s shoulder. He seemed to understand that I had mixed emotions about it all.

We plan to use the fire pit as much as we can, and we’ve made a good start already. I think Mike and I have both imagined sitting out there, roasting marshmallows, talking, listening to music. We’ve already accomplished the goals of spending more time in our yard and taking care of the weight of the past (one goal was a little more serious than the other). If spring is a time of starting over, well, so is autumn, at least if you’re still on a school schedule like we are. New shoes, new clothes, new books, new lines in a journal. As much as I love the long hot evenings of summer, I am looking forward to the cool evenings of fall we hope to spend with a fire. And now that the journals are taken care of, I like to think the fire pit is primed for autumn, too.

We sat quietly for a while, only interrupted by the fireworks that the neighbors set off (real ones yet again. They were very pretty). And then he stood up, pulled me off the bench and said, “Come on. Let’s go inside.”

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