Campfires. I have always loved them. My earliest memories of them are at Chaumont,NY. My grandparents had a cottage there when I was growing up. Grandpa had built the cottage and the firepit. The firepit was made of flat beach rocks he had piled up into a half circle to protect the fire from wind off the bay. It was right on the edge of the beach, where the grass ended and the rocky shore started. We had a campfire every night. Grandpa would spend hours sitting at it, just staring at it. I asked him once what he thought about and he smiled and said “not much…” It was fun to watch the fire, find faces and shapes in it, watch it dance. It was mesmerizing. My favorite childhood memories involve listening to the waves lap the shore while sitting at the campfire with grandpa. The smell of the smoke, the heat on our faces… If we were good grandpa would let my sister and I build little mini campfires along the outside edge of the big campfire. We would gather small flat rocks from the beach and build little firepits, then use twigs to make our own fires. Often our cousins were there at the cottage with us and of course we would toast marshmallows and make s’mores. They almost always had ash in them from the fire, giving them a smokey taste. We would all sit around laughing and talking and toasting marshmallows. But my favorite memories are still of sitting quietly with grandpa watching the fire dance for us.
When I met my husband he came with a campsite (bonus!). For the past twenty some years it has become a second home to me. The campfires there are always fun. Sometimes just with just us and our children, but more often with friends and neighbors. Learning to build a campfire was one of the first things my son most wanted to do when he was young. Now he builds most of them. Sleeping in his hammock in the woods nearby. Our friends all gather, sometimes to sit quietly and relax and exchange stories about our lives. Sometimes one of the kids breaks out their ukulele and they all start singing. Or acting out skits they learned at summer camp. Mostly we laugh. The campfire is a place to gather and unwind and relax with friends and family. I wonder if grandpa was remembering back to some of his campfires as a youth with his friends and family, doing the same things I am with mine. It really hasn’t changed much. Luckily.
Many mornings following campfires we still have hot coals. So my son throws some bacon over the fire. That brings out the neighbors. They arrive carrying eggs, bread, fruit, etc. and we feast. Sometimes our campfire breakfast lasts until noon. We all sit with our coffee and plan our day. Days spent doing our separate things. Swimming, boating, hiking, relaxing, etc. But we all wind up back together that night gathered around a campfire.
Campfires to me represent family, friends and all that is good and basic and pure. They have been there for me since I was a child, since my grandparents were children and back for generations. Campfires are for relaxing and connecting and making memories. Just the smell of one takes me back to those lazy summer nights in Chaumont with grandpa watching the fire and not thinking about much at all- just feeling the moment and loving every second of it.