Flames of Yesterday

August 10, 2017
By jyl16 SILVER, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
jyl16 SILVER, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
5 articles 4 photos 0 comments

This was really, truly, the end of it all.

She came to realize this devastation as each group filed into the field, through the path of glowing luminaries. The weight of it grew heavier and heavier on her shoulders with every step, posing a threat of slipping on the dewy grass. She could only rely on the steady footing of those ahead to guide her, the twilight shadows as thick as her watering eyes were blurry. It was soon that the entirety of the conference was assembled in a vast circle; by this time, silent tears rolled down her cheeks, the salty drops running into her lips. This only made the grass slicker. An acoustic melody began to ripple out from the center of the crowd, and only then was she capable of grounding herself. She hastily wiped her palms across her face in a lame attempt to interrupt the watery trails left behind and swayed to the tranquil rhythm.

“Psst. Julia- look up!”  excitedly whispered Cecelia, a member of her group who had gone from stranger to friend in a matter of days. CeCe, her preferred title, was bursting with the energy of a thousand suns, her rays of light reaching all she encountered. Nodding, still trying to regain her composture, Julia craned her neck and glanced up into the sky. And what she saw was dazzling. Millions of adjectives ran through her mind, all uncapable of describing the heavens above. Clusters of constellations shone brilliantly, pinpoints of light piercing the dark blanket of night. Whispers traveled around the circle at a rapid pace, kid after kid pointing fingers and quietly exclaiming at the beauty that was the sky. Carried by a light breeze, the murmurs disappated into the forest surrounding. Candles began to be distributed among the group. All was peaceful once again.

The candle’s feeble flame wobbled in the flow of the moving air, mirroring her own wobbling expression as it illuminated the struggles of holding back her emotion once more. It was her final time participating in the time-honored candle ceremony of this camp- in other words, the final time she would voluntarily scorch her fingers on molten wax in the name of tradition. But, she loved it still. Laughing to herself, she realized that, quite literally, the last moments of her time there were slipping through her fingers. She could do nothing about it aside from stifle her own screams as the wax dripped down, down, down. It was then that a handful of people to her left began to softly hum the tune to “We Are Here,” a heartfelt ballad branded as the week’s anthem. This soon spread throughout the whole circle, a heart set ablaze as one, and within seconds, everyone was swaying in unison to the glorious blending of sound and soul.

It occurred naturally, no words needing to be spoken. Following the candles and singing, a hush fell across the crowd; she and CeCe made brief eye contact in the darkness and prompty flattened out on the cool grass, turning their attention back onto the starry patterns canvasing the sky. Inhaling and exhaling with the rhythm of the earth, she examined the horizon with hungry eyes, starving eyes. And… there! A shooting star streaked across her vision, the image burned in her gaze; a gasp escaped her lips. She turned to her friend beside her and they shared that moment together, exchanging knowing grins.

It was a memory that would last much longer than the technicolor dye that stained the tips of her fingers or the shimmering hair spray that lingered on her scalp, so she came to realize. The events contained in these mere seconds were treasures to be cherished, just as tangible as sparkling gems or golden necklaces. The flame dying in her clasped hands, she blew it out with a gentle breath. She was letting go. But, really, these moments would never truly be gone. The times had here were real and now, but would also be for later, and that in itself was positively marvelous. This place, dear, dear Massanetta, would live in the caverns of her heart for an eternity.

The author's comments:

This piece was about my three years attending a youth conference called Massanetta; this summer marked my final expereience there. I wanted to commemorate the incredible memories and moments I have shared with others at 'Netta by writing this short memoir regarding the tradition of 'Vespers,' a candle lighting ceremony held on the last day. It is a place I will continue to hold close to my heart even after my time there years later. 

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