Campfire Dreams

Over fall break, I cooked dinner over a fire of my own creation. I am officially ready for the zombie apocalypse – as long as the zombie apocalypse includes hot dogs and lighter fluid. It will, right?

As you may have surmised from previous missives, I am not exactly an Eagle Scout when it comes to outdoor adventuring. I’m an unenthusiastic hiker, a novice camper, and my one and only memory of fishing involves getting a hook caught in my ankle when I was about nine. It wasn’t even my hook.

But for all my ineptitude, there is one hallmark of outdoor vacationing that I have always loved – the campfire. There’s really nothing that can beat the ambiance of a cool evening, a crackling fire, and a circle of loved ones. Add a guitar, and it’s heaven on earth.

Thus, when I booked an Airbnb near a great state park for a mini excursion with the kids, the presence of an outdoor fire pit was a big selling point. The fact that I had never actually started a fire before was only a minor concern. Don’t judge me! My previous campfire experience had always been in communal settings with people who knew what they were doing.

But I was undeterred. I had firewood, lighter fluid, and a very enthusiastic ten-year-old boy who was more than willing to help me set things on fire. Said ten-year-old boy is the primary reason we had never added a firepit to our lovely backyard patio area. I had entertained the idea on and off for several years, but my daydreams always morphed into visions of children tripping and falling into the fire, accidentally causing explosions by trying to burn inappropriate things, or inadvertently igniting someone’s hair with a projectile flaming marshmallow.

I needn’t have worried. My kids are indeed old enough to manage themselves around open flames. They diligently collected kindling, resisted the urge to add unauthorized combustibles, and only waved their marshmallows about when strictly necessary. Or maybe that was just me, come to think of it. My kids are far more patient than I am when it comes to marshmallow toasting. I am a member of the “set it on fire, blow it out, and enjoy the charred outer edges” school of s’mores making. I lack the discipline to slowly roast a marshmallow over embers, creating that perfect golden crust.

My oldest daughter is a pro, but then again, I managed to consume three marshmallows in the time it took her to roast one, so I still consider my method to be superior.

Campfires are a time for telling stories, sharing dreams, and making memories. We talked about the (big!) waterfall we’d visited during the day, pondering what it must have been like for early settlers or indigenous explorers to discover it by accident. We debated the pros and cons of various superpowers. Is flying really the best option? Would telepathy be more of a curse than a gift?

We discussed the floorplans for our dream house, drawing on our favorite elements of the rental (which included a very cool treehouse and a second-floor balcony) and adding liberally from our imaginations. Mine had a rounded turret with a library. I think my daughter’s included a dragon. There was definitely at least one swimming pool.

The kids told jokes, apparently vying by unspoken agreement to earn the coveted award of Most Groan-Worthy. Why do seagulls fly over the sea? Because if they flew over the bay, they would be bagels.

It was a wonderful evening, even if the hot dogs tasted vaguely of lighter fluid. We all spoke about the firepit with such joy that my parents generously bought us one later that week, a gift for my conveniently-upcoming birthday. It promptly rained for three days straight, but I look forward to dreaming around a campfire again soon!

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