A paper lantern ghosts up into the night, hesitates before it is caught by the wind and lifted deeper into the bosom of the sky. We watch its orange glow diminish in the dark, until it is nothing more than an ember shivering in the distance.
This is one of our few rituals – begun after Ben got out of rehab just over a year ago. Around Halloween, we take some paper lanterns to the park across the road, stick a wish to them, and light them up, hoping not to set fire to ourselves in the process.
No matter how many times we do it, we are transfixed as soon as they are airborne. They are like shuttles, of memory and hope, drifting away from us and up towards the stars. Memory, because Ben and I first saw these ethereal paper balloons in Thailand many years ago. Hope, because Rosie always writes a note – to the Moon Fairy – putting in an early request for Christmas.
This time it’s a little different. Instead of a fairy dress, she asks for a “magic portil”. I think this is an excellent choice – one that could help us all out.
The first lantern hovers dangerously close to the ground before climbing gently higher. The second one takes off quickly, but drops down into a tree, burning a hole in itself (the tree was unscathed). Rosie cries, but quickly recovers. She has a torch (a bike light) which she shines into the trees to marvel at the silver backs of leaves.
It all lasts about 30 minutes. Then we’re back home, and Ben sets off for his own place. Not before he has us take some photos by the Jack-o-Lantern. He suggests we have a family portrait as well.
I don’t read anything into this. It is mere nostalgia, this ghost that follows us from room to room. If we let go, the haunting will subside, like the ocean at low tide.