The Huggers

Sky lanterns are paper balloons with a wax fuel pellet suspended from the bottom.  You light them and let the paper balloon fill with hot air and then release it to fly away somewhere until the pellet burns out.

I bought some sky lanterns for my daughter Z.  It was near Christmas and it was Cyber Monday at that.  I hadn’t really formed a list, but all the media were telling me that I had to buy something on Cyber Monday to get the best deals. So, I went shoppin’. (www.justartifacts.net/sky_lanterns)

Sky Lanterns came across my screen and I thought my daughter would like them.  She likes fire and outer space.  I figured it was a perfect gift.  I bought 6, thinking maybe they would make a good stocking stuffer.  At cyber-checkout, they told me I would get free shipping if I bought $50 dollars or more.  So, I bought 36 Sky Lanterns.  It was a pretty big box. Maybe Z would need a bigger stocking.

Though at first perplexed, she later thanked me for the gift and displayed her gratitude by stowing them in the basement.

Skipping ahead to summer, I was home from DC for the holiday. We gave the Fourth of July Fireworks a miss, so I asked Z that evening if she’d like to launch a few of the lanterns.

“I thought we’d go over to the high school down the street and launch one from the football field”

“Isn’t it locked?” she asked dubiously..

“Nah, I saw a deer on the 40 yard line the other day.  There has to be a way in.  Like Grandpa used to say, ‘Confucius say, if a dog is on the roof, there must be a way up!’”

I asked Mrs. Secret-Asian-Man if she wanted to go along, but she thought she’d better stay behind in case we needed bailed out of jail.

Off we walked down the street. Z was keen, but muttering under her breath about getting caught.

“Do you want to go back?  We could find another field. I just thought this one was closer.”

“No, no!  Let’s stick to the plan.”

We walked along the fence looking for a gap or another way in, because really, I did see a deer in the middle of the field. The deer must have been a jumper because we couldn’t find any obvious holes.

“I guess we’ll have to climb the fence”, I said.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“Z, we can go back if you want.”

“No, this is an easy climb.”  And, over the chain link fence she went.   “Aren’t we trespassing?” she asked, as she hit the ground.

“Actually, right now, YOU’RE trespassing.”

“Dad! Get over here!”

And, a’trespassing I went.

We walked out to the 20 yard line, unfolded the lantern and set it on the ground.  I lit the corners of the fuel pellet and through the papery lantern it cast a bright glow across the field, but it didn’t appear it be in any hurry to float away.

We heard the clink of beer bottles in the distance, then a yell.  “Fire! WTF!”

Z hissed “Dad! There is someone over in the bleachers!”

“Yeah? Well, I’ve got a large burning object in my hands, so, it’s too late now!”  I steadied the lantern hoping it would heat up enough to lift off quickly.  While waiting I mentally checked my pocket for my phone to call Mrs. S.A.M for bail or help.

Then footsteps and voices approached.  “Sky lanterns! I love sky lanterns!”  Two wispy figures in long dresses traipsed into the glow.  “These are the best! We light them off at music festivals all the time!  Have you done this before?”

“No. Does it show?”

“You have to hold them up and be careful not to catch them on fire.  We want to help you with your first sky lantern experience!”

Yes, it did go on quite like that.  Wispy druids smelling of Corona and maybe Patchouli, removed of most filters, going on about all the musical festivals and the lanterns they’d lit and the tree that caught fire that one time (Yikes!)  We set off two more lanterns, the four of us in a small circle guiding each one on its way. 

Both women were named Calista (What’re the odds that both their mothers were Ally McBeal fans?). One went by Cali and the other, Cal.  They both were in dog training school. (Okay, this is weird. Two people named Calista in Dog Training school?)  A third druid, Olyvia, appeared.  She’d been waiting in the shadows.

Cali turned to my daughter and asked, “What’s your name?”


“Hi, Z, I’m Cali and I’m a hugger” at which point she leaned in for a hug.

To me, “What’s your name?”

“Secret Asian Man”

“Hi, I’m Cali and I’m a hugger.”  Yes, so I’d heard.  We hugged. “Okay, so we’re headed out.”

I asked to be shown the way in and out as I’m sure these women in their long dresses did not climb the fence.  They pointed toward a gate on the far end of the field and said there was gap to slip through. We all headed that way chit-chatting.  

Z said, relieved, “I thought you guys were the police”

Cali said, “Technically, what we’re doing isn’t illegal.”

Z replied, neutrally, “Trespassing is sort of illegal.” Which received a shrug.

We all slipped through the gap, the wispy ones a little more easily than us, and said our goodbyes.  “Thanks for sharing your sky lanterns with us!

“Thanks for keeping us from setting the field on fire.”

And with that, Z and I walked home. “Why do huggers feel their needs outweigh others?  I’m not a hugger, shouldn’t I have a say in the introduction?”, she asked.

“That’s true.  Substitute ‘licker’ for ‘hugger’ and you might be dealing with a felony.”

The following day driving by the high school, Z said, “That was a lot of fun. I’ll never pass that place without thinking about the huggers.”

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