Tonight we sat around the fire at our campsite, one of several small clearings hewn from the tropical jungle that pressed thick around us, ever-growing, inches by the hour, perhaps made habitable just for us, cleared long enough for our weekend reservation, then promptly to again be swallowed-up by hanging vine and saw palmetto and tall, Spanish-moss-drenched, oak, the whole thing entirely absorbed back into Florida overnight, consumed.
It was in a place very much like this, a clearing deep in a thick Florida forest, that I can recall attending my magical coming of age ceremony. A very physical rendition of death and rebirth; a transmogrification, from youth into adulthood: a bunkbed bonfire.
I must have been about fifteen when I asked my parents if I could get rid of the bunkbeds I had long had (bunkbeds just for me, not shared, don’t know why) and upgrade to a waterbed (all the rage at the time). For whatever reason, they assented, and my old bunkbed was moved out back alongside the house to be trashed.
Don’t know who had the idea, but suspect it was me. The bedframe was massive, tall, wooden. It took the three or four of us a good while to chop it into pieces small enough to fit into wheelbarrows and wagons. It was so much wood. We used our bikes, and many trips back and forth, to cart it, splintered and still ridden with nails and staples, across the subdivision to Kyle’s place. There, we piled it to be caravanned once more into our campground.
We then moved that entire chopped-up bunkbed, the very cradle of my youth, by hand the final quarter-mile of trail, bushwhacked by us with machetes, from Kyle’s uncle’s backyard out to the little sandy-bottom clearing where we often camped on the weekends and in the summer.
And then it was there: The bed that I’d read all the Hardy Boys and Ramona Quimby books on. The bed that I’d taped pictures of women in lingerie I’d clipped from the JC Penney catalog to. The bed where I’d awaken from nightmares so terrified I couldn’t make myself scream for mom. The bed I’d had forever. Now just a pile of sharp sticks; tinder, fuel.
And that night we burned it in a large hole we’d dug with shovels, a burm of displaced dirt ringing the thing. Piece by piece, early into the morning, we reduced that childhood heirloom entirely to plasma and heat and smoke and soot and ash. Gone; burned; offered to the Gods in exchange for facial hair and a learner’s permit. One childhood: well-done, extra-crispy, blackened.
And so passed the era of the bunkbed and thus began the era of the waterbed. Fine epochs both, to be sure, but the latter with far more sexual energy than the former.
A funeral pyre, a bier for my childhood, adolescence chief pallbearer.