Some friends recently invited us to their mortgage-burning party. I wasn’t all that excited about going, particularly since we had just re-upped with our lender for a few more decades.
My wife saw things differently, however. “Why should it matter?” she asked me. “The fact that you’re not Mexican doesn’t seem to keep you away from the margarita machine on Cinco de Mayo.”
She continued, “Besides, I’d want our friends to celebrate with us when we pay off our house note.”
“Okay, fine,” I said. ” I’ll go prepare the invitations. How’s this sound: ‘Come celebrate the retirement of our house note, or our wake, whichever comes first.’ “
But as usual, my wife prevailed, and we went to the party. “We are debt-free!” our host, Larry, proclaimed as he dropped first the mortgage document, and then, as a bonus, his car note, into the fire.
Quite frankly, I’d expected more of a spectacle. The mortgage was printed on a single sheet of paper, unlike the one I had just signed, which ran fifty-six pages and ended up putting my arm in a sling. I ‘m going to need a permit from the fire marshal if and when I finally get the chance to burn it.
But that’s how it is these days. You can’t even sign a permission form for a school field trip anymore without risking carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s fortunate that things weren’t that way back when the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Otherwise, they’d be playing “God Save The Queen” before baseball games, thanks to some loophole.
Imagine how the conversation might have gone following the Battle of Yorktown:
“General Washington, despite my unconditional surrender, His Majesty cannot recognize the colonies’ independence.”
“How can that be, Lord Cornwallis? We just kicked your red-coated tails.”
“Yes, technically speaking, you did; but, unfortunately, Mr. Hancock failed to initial page seventeen of the addendum where indicated. This renders your Declaration null and void.”
But, luckily, our nation gained its freedom in a simpler time, when gypsy moths still threatened our forests more than the lawyers did. A time when you could draft a fully legal mortgage on a Post-it note.
Speaking of Post-it’s, Larry happened to have some on hand for the occasion, thus giving us all a chance to add some fuel to the fire. Setting them on table, he encouraged us to create our own notes and drop them in the flames.
“He’s got to be kidding,” I said to my wife. “What can be the purpose of this?”
“You write down your cares and worries,” she replied. “Burning them in the fire helps you to put them behind and move on.”
“I can’t think of anything,” I said.
“Come on, you’ve complained enough in the past week to fill up a whole pad yourself.”
“Okay,” I challenged her, “Help me, then. Name one thing.”
“Well, start with the name of someone you’ve been holding a grudge against. Like maybe some busybody who keeps giving you unwanted advice.”
I thought for a minute and jotted a name.
“Who’s Dave Ramsey?” she sneered, peeking over my shoulder.
“You know. He’s that guy on the radio who’s always spouting off about getting debt-free.”
“Oh, you’re impossible,” she replied as she scrawled a name on the notepad and strutted off toward the fire.
I caught a glimpse of what she wrote just before the flames consumed it.
“Hey!” I protested. “That was my name!”