Pop-up Fire

I was working on a manuscript last night when I heard my oldest son on the phone in the other room.

“Can you come to our fire tonight? We’re going to roast marshmallows and make s’mores.”

“What?” I ran out into his room. “What did you just say?”

“I was just inviting a friend to our fire.”

“Are we having a fire?” I asked. My wife was out of the picture, taking a final exam for her Statistics class.

“I thought it would be fun.”

“Okay. How fun? How many people did you invite?”

He took a moment to count to himself. “Six families.”

“I see.” I checked my phone to see what time it was: five o’clock. “What time is this fire that we’re having with our friends?”

“I don’t know.”

I dropped my manuscript on a chair. “Call ’em back. Make it 6:30. Get your brother. We’ve got some shopping to do.”

By 6pm, we were back at the house. I was building a fire in the pit on the driveway, while the kids raced to get chairs set up. I’d picked up fried chicken and a giant baguette at the supermarket for dinner.

Once the fire was started, I left my oldest to watch it while I went inside to fill my camp coffee pot with water. When I came back, the first of the friends had showed up.

“I didn’t have any dinner,” he said.

I nestled the pot of water among the burning logs. “Well, grab some fried chicken and rip off a hunk of bread.”

“Rip what?”

I held out the baguette to him. “Grab a piece, rip it off, and start chewing.”

“I can do that?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.”

He grinned, ripped off a huge piece and stuffed it in his mouth.

The kids continued to arrive, until there were eleven of them, ranging in age from 7 to 12. The chicken disappeared incredibly quickly. So did the bread. I cooked camp hot chocolate, and pointed them toward the marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers.

“How many can we have?” one asked.

“Well,” I said, pouring hot water into a styrofoam cup of cocoa powder. “We’ve got what we’ve got. Once it’s gone, there isn’t any more.”

“I dropped some crackers!”

“Did I mention that’s all we have?” I asked.

Suddenly, the kids understood. I may have been the only adult there, but I wasn’t making the rules. We had what we had, and we could have fun, or we could not. It was up to us to make the best of it.

And they did. There was no fighting or bickering, no “I wanted that marshmallow” or “that’s my cocoa!” Instead, we roasted marshmallows, shared jokes, and told campfire stories. Someone found a football and they threw that around for a while, then came back to the fire for more hanging out. I stayed at the fire, of course, and made sure everyone was safe.

It was, all in all, a ton of fun.

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