The campers and staff at the campfire rained down thunderous applause on me for my ghost story. For the third time this week I felt like a rock star. I was really starting to love this place.
I cautiously stepped through the seated campers and made my way back to my little family. I sat down between my daughters and my son climbed into my lap. My son gave me a hard hug around my neck and the girls scooted in close to me and linked their arms in mine.
“Good story Mum!” Daughter one patted my hand.
“Did you make that up?” Daughter two asked. I smiled shook my head.
Shawn’s voice interrupted us. “Thanks Nurse Anne for that hair raising and eerie story. I know I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight!” and he laughed.
Ugh! I hoped everyone could sleep tonight! That’s all I needed was 80 freaked out campers. But then again…it would be my own fault. 😦
“We are going to finish up our Annual Camp Acorn Camp Fire, 1998 edition with a closing song.” Shawn told us.
We heard the sound of a trumpet from far off in the distance. It was the tune of Taps. The counselors and some of the campers started to sing along.
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky:
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.
Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, ‘neath the sky.
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.
The trumpet player held the final note for a couple of extra beats. Then it stopped, but the note continued on as it echoed across the lake. All at the campfire were still and silent as we listened. The tune was so appropriate, so beautiful and the lyrics, like a prayer, I couldn’t help but break out into goosebumps. I gave an involuntary shiver and wrapped my arms around the kids.
Shawn spoke softly. “OK campers. Please have respect for the surrounding cottagers, as it is late, and quietly proceed back to your huts.”
“Just wait a minute OK? ” I whispered to my three kids and we watched.
With an amazing amount of restraint, the campers almost inaudibly got up and began to file out of the beach. They placed their hot chocolate cups into the bins at the exit and trudged up the hill. All you could hear was soft whispering and the sound of shoes scuffing along the dirt road. Light from the occasional flash lights bounced along the ground. The campers gradually disappeared into the forest as they continued along their paths back to their huts.
Father Brian, Shawn, Nate, Caroline and Angus remained behind. They were the clean up crew.
Caroline came over to us and whispered. “Do you guys want anymore hot chocolate?” All three kids nodded. “Well bring your cups over. We have some extra.”
The kids and I followed Caroline over to the gargantuan pot of hot chocolate. It was lukewarm by now. She ladled out some for each child as they held their cups up to her.
“Here. Have some more marshmallows too, you guys.” Caroline grabbed a fistful of marshmallows and plopped a very generous amount of them on top of each cup. The kids giggled and laughed as the hot chocolate spilled down the sides of the cups. There was more marshmallow then there was hot chocolate by this point. But really? Can there ever be “too many marshmallows”? Is that even ‘a thing’? I think not.
“Hey guys, let’s sit down and drink that.” I said as I directed the kids back towards the campfire.
Wooden benches had been pulled up around the fire. Nate, Shawn, and Father Brian were sitting and quietly chatting. Angus was pouring water from a bucket around the edges of the fire. The girls sat down on one of the benches and I picked up my son, hot chocolate in his hands, and plunked him down on the bench too. No spillage. Whew. I sat down beside my little guy. The three kids worked on their hot chocolates as we gazed into the fading campfire.
I took a deep breath. The campfire had been fun. My nervousness had now faded and I felt relaxed, although sore. It had been a looooong day. A 5 K run, a canoe ride, a fish hook, a pregnancy scare (not mine!), a hang-over (also not mine!), a van load of kids to the emergency room, a busted arm (fail!), a scary story, and now a gorgeous evening around a campfire by the lake.
I had done more, experienced more, and learned more in this one day at camp then I had in a long time in the city. It felt good, I guess. The kinda good feeling you have after you exit a roller coaster kinda feeling.
“So Mum…you didn’t make up that story?” Daughter one asked. I shook my head.
“So it was real!” Daughter two asked with a look of horror on her face.
“No silly!” I laughed. “I read it in a ghost story book. I just retold it in my own words.”
“Ohhhh!” The kids nodded with understanding and relief.
“There is no such thing as ghosts.”
“Well why did you tell a ghost story then?” My son asked.
“Lots of people like ghost stories. Especially around a campfire. Some people like to be scared but not too scared. It’s kinda like Halloween. Just pretend.”
“I like Halloween!” My son said as he swung his feet and slurped up some marshmallows. His mouth was gooey with melted marshmallow.
“Speaking of pretend, Anne, I wondered if you would mind helping us out again tomorrow?” Caroline said as she sat down beside me on the bench. Caroline and Angus exchanged a look and a nod. Hmmmm…just like the Medicrin in the story tonight, I smelled danger!
“What are you guys up to?” I asked warily.
“Well, you did such a nice job on the ghost story tonight, that Angus and I wondered if you would mind helping us with the ‘All-camp’ tomorrow?”
“What does that entail?”
“Some acting skills.”
I felt the lurch in my stomach again.