The first time I saw Chinese lanterns was in a movie. The second time I saw them was in another movie. I had never seen one in person until New Year’s day, 12:27 am precisely
. We attended the watch night service at church and part of the festivities to ring in the New Year included lighting Chinese lanterns and releasing them up into the sky. I was as excited about it as the boys were. Their exuberance was expected considering the fact that the reason there is an unsightly burn mark on the top left corner of my bathroom window is due to their worrying obsession healthy curiosity with fire. Did I ever share about the day they made a rocket? It wasn’t from a rocket kit from the toy shop. No. These boys chose to make one from scratch since their mother isn’t ‘in the habit of buying toys willy-nilly’
So they gathered all their components together. A single A4 paper and Vaseline. They made a paper airplane, smeared the tail with Vaseline, yes petroleum jelly. In case there is a non-greasy type I’ll point out that they used the greasy one. Placed a large blob of the jelly on the nose of the plane, set fire to it and yes, attempted to fly it out of the window upstairs. I’m guessing they went upstairs to give themselves a head start into space.
Back to the lanterns. The wet weather prevented us from lighting our lanterns at church, so we took them home. Of course the weather has never been known to hinder my boys’ determination for adventure so straight to the garden we went. After a few false starts we had success. The challenge then became how to get it to lift up in a straight vertical manner just like the movies. Wasn’t it supposed to just float upwards until it became as tiny as a star?? Eventually #3’s lantern lifted up, we stared in excitement, barely able to contain ourselves that this was really happening. As if on cue the lantern decided to change course and chart a horizontal path towards our neighbour’s garden. It carried on past their’s to hover over the second garden and then began it’s desent, all the while staring at us in a mocking fashion. It was still alight. For all we knew they had gas cylinders on their patio- they were the heavy barbecuing type- but the lantern didn’t care and the patio was precisely where the lantern made a bee line for. The swift change from excitement to mad panic deserves a place in the Guinness book of world records. I’ll point out too that the mad panic was neither experienced nor displayed by the boys.
I flew in my high heels to their home and knocked on the door. No one peeked out of the window to see who was knocking at that ungodly hour. There was no shuffling of feet or tinkling of keys. All I got was pitch blackness and silence. By this time I could hear the sirens of the fire brigade coming to douse the flames of an entire house, while the residents whispered in small circles about the woman with the four sons who was bent on burning down their quiet street. And how certain people really should be certified sane before being allowed to move into the borough of Bromley.
I ran back into my house where I told the boys to get ready to climb over two lots of fences. From our garden I could see the orange glow of the flames in the darkness which told me trouble wasn’t looming, it had successfully loomed and doomed.
I dashed back outside, this time to my next door neighbour rambling on about fire, cylinders and the Chinese. I think it was out of fear for the safety of his future that he let me in. I brushed past him, tore through the house to their garden to climb over their fence. Thankfully the fire was out and the lantern was smouldering. I then had to do the walk of shame in front of his family who had gathered on either side of the hallway to see how someone who didn’t even know their name was now tearing around the house like she lived there.
As I walked I tried to talk away the shame, focusing on safety and lanterns and all the right things I thought they’d want to hear.
Needless to say our experience with Chinese lanterns shall remain confined to movies. We have a large screen, what more do we want?
BTW it turned out that the ‘orange glow’ was only their garden light. Phew!