July 08, 2008
Around the fire
Evenings are cool on the river, even during July, so as soon as it gets dark, we gather around the campfire. Several family members bring guitars, which leads to some music and singing, but mostly we talk and play games in the firelight.
One game that my kids love to play is the music game in which someone points to a random word in a book and then we have to sing at least eight words of a song with that word. For some reason, the book we traditionally use is Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter, mostly because someone left a hard-cover copy of the book at camp years ago, and it's still there. But the words can be difficult. "Trousers?" one of the kids will say in disbelief. "WTF? Who would put the word trousers in a song?" And why is that Christmas songs always use the word sleigh instead of sled? What's with that?
We play as one team, the American team, competing against countries like China or Finland. My brother uses his announcer voice to keep us abreast of the scores: "In a surprise move, Iceland has just pulled ahead with 8 points! That's going to be tough to beat." The funny thing about my family is that they are very competitive even when they are playing imaginary opponents.
As the fire turns to red-hot coals, Tie-dye Brother-in-law and I will take turns getting branches or logs from the wood pile to add to the fire. My mother will give the fire an expert poke with a stick she keeps just for that purpose. When I add a log to the fire, my father always says, "Hey, don't make it too big." He says this every single time, even if the fire has smoldered down to just a few red coals. I've been building campfires for over forty years, and I think he's said this to me every time I've put a stick on the fire. Every. Single. Time. It's a tradition.
Between games and riddles and random trivia questions, sometimes we'll retell the old family stories. This year Red-haired Sister asked my mother to repeat some of the most gruesome ones, like the time the woman down the street was killed in her bed by her son-in-law with an axe. Yes, it's a true story that happened when I was just a kid. The part of the story my mother remembers most clearly is when the kids that lived in the house came over and asked her to call the police because the murderer had returned. The police found the axe murderer hiding in the chicken coop.
As the night stretches on, the early-risers will disappear into tents or cabins, leaving a smaller crowd. By then, the heat from the fire will feel good. When my kids were little, I used to stay up the latest, but those days are long gone. The teenagers and young people are usually still talking and joking noisily as my husband and I leave the fire to make our way to the little tent under the pine trees.
Posted by jo(e)