By the Campfire

When I was younger, my family used to tent camp each summer. State parks provide campsites you can rent for a few days, and my parents always chose the simplest sites, a small clearing with a fire ring.

For a few days, we were isolated from the world. Dad didn’t bring his cellphone. We didn’t have laptops. Even if we did bring a cellphone, the coverage would have been horrible.

My mom and dad woke up early to make coffee. I would unzip my tent and see my parents sitting around the fire, sipping coffee from old plastic cups.

We would sit around the campfire after dinner in our aluminum and cloth chairs.

I felt connected to an older time: we used the fire to cook our food, banish the darkness at night, something to watch when the conversation slid to a halt. Fire is alive — you can see the sentience in the surge and beat of the flame. Watching a fire is like watching a hungry toddler eating.

I remember Dad making a fire for some newlyweds when we were camping at a state park. We had watched the young husband dump lighter fluid on their fire. The flames would rage upward and strain toward the stars, but in a few minutes, it died down. Finally, the husband leashed his pride and asked my dad for help.

After building up the fire and giving the young husband some pointers, Dad sat down in his chair and leaned back, settling comfortably.

“He was trying to impress his wife,” Dad said. “But nobody taught him how to build a good fire.”

Leave a comment


  1. Anonymous

     /  November 9, 2011

    Very nice story…well written!

  2. Nice piece. I am going for the first time this weekend here in florida.



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