I dragged my enormous hockey bag out from under the bunk bed and rifled around in there. I pulled out a small hand towel, found a fruit roll up, a bag of pretzel sticks and a bag of Cheetos. I tossed all the items onto the towel, along with the Nancy Drew book, and a flashlight and gathered up my bundle just as the girls came streaking down the hall and stopped out in front of my door.
“Dry off and jammies on. We are going to have a quiet indoor campfire.” And get to bed early. But I didn’t mention that out loud.
“Indoor campfire?” Sarah asked. “What’s that?” Megan stopped in her tracks beside her and gawked at me as the water dripped off her and onto the carpet.
“You’ll see.” I said playfully. The girls scurried into their room as Patrick entered our room wrapped in his towel and shivering. I made quick work of drying him off and wrestling him into his pajamas. I grabbed his hand and the bundle with the other.
“Let’s go make a campfire in the girls’ room.” I told him. He looked up at me with confusion and I smiled at him.
The girls had their pajamas on and their towels wrapped like turbans around their heads when we entered. I walked over to the window and pulled the ‘towel curtain’ down to shade the room from the setting sun. I closed the door.
“OK. Let’s sit in a circle on the floor.” I instructed the kids and they flopped down, looking at me eagerly.
“Wait. We are having the campfire in here?” Sarah asked as she pointed to the floor.
“What about dinner?” Megan asked, her eyebrows knitted together, as she held her hand up.
“Who needs dinner when we have this!” I said as I dropped the towel in the center of the circle and pulled back to towel with a flourish to reveal our snacks.
“OOOOOH!” The three kids exclaimed when they saw the booty. They immediately started to grab for the items but I swiftly threw an arm protectively over the treasures.
“Hang on! Hang onnnnn! I know it’s not a healthy dinner but you had a good lunch and then apples and cheese at the beach. Are you super hungry or can we have a horribly unhealthy snack and quietly read a book around the campfire just this one time?”
“Unhealthy snack!” Megan clapped and chanted and quickly Sarah and Patrick joined in clapping and bopping their heads. “Unhealthy snack! Unhealthy snack!”
“OK!” I grinned. “And you won’t vote me the worst mum ever?” I asked as I held out my hands to them.
“No! No! Best mum ever!” Sarah exclaimed. “Best mum ever!” The chanting started again. I giggled.
“So we all agree. Let’s start by making our own campfires.” I said in a soft voice. I flattened the towel in the center of our little circle.
“Now don’t eat the snacks yet!” I warned them. “Wait until the verrrrrrrrry end. First we start with dry tinder.” I said as I pulled open the pretzel sticks and divided up the bag between the four of us, placing a pile of them in front of each of us on the towel. I started by placing the tiny broken pieces in a small pile.
“Then we add the kindling.” I demonstrated how to stack the unbroken pretzels like a teepee tent over top as the kids copied me.
“Then we light a match.” I said as I pretended to strike a match. “Fssssstttt!” I said as I held my match up and then cupped my other hand around it and brought it down toward the pretzels.
“Fssssstttt,” the kids mimicked me.
“Set the tinder on fire.” I held the match to the tinder. I grabbed the Cheetos and opened the bag. I divvied up the Cheetos amounts the four of us as the kids watched silently grinning.
“Well look at that!” I exclaimed. “The tinder is now on fire and it will light the kindling.” I gently placed my Cheetos on the tinder. The orange cheesy treats resembled flames shooting upwards. As the kids placed their Cheetos on their fire I turned the flashlight on and aimed it at our campfires.
“Woooooow!” Patrick whistled.
“Great job everyone. We have a nice start to our fire.” I held out my hands and pretended to warm them by the fire as the kids copied me. “Now we can add the fuel wood.” I explained as I tore open the fruit roll up. I ripped it into eight pieces and each of us got two. I showed the kids how to roll the fruit snack into a log shape.
“Now we add the logs on top of the kindling and they will catch on fire.” I placed my logs directly on top of my kindling as the teepee collapsed. “Once the logs catch on fire you can actually cook food on the fire, just like a stove.”
“Coooool,” said Sarah.
“Can I eat mine?” Patrick asked, bouncing on his bottom and growing impatient.
“Tell you what. You guys eat yours. I won’t eat mine and I will read you a story around my campfire. Sound OK?”
“Yaaaaassss!’ The kids answered as they promptly started munching on their ‘campfires’. I grabbed the Nancy Drew book and found the beginning of chapter one.
“I’m going to read you guys a mystery story called ‘The Secret of the Old Clock.’” I said in a voice barely above a whisper. “Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of eighteen, was driving home along a country road in her new, dark-blue convertible.” I started. Barely a paragraph later Nancy was gasping in horror as she tried to avoid hitting a little girl who ran out into the road!
I glanced at the kids’ faces as they nibbled. They were hooked despite the lack of illustrations!
It only took one chapter before I had their girls in their bunk beds and Patrick cuddled in bedside his sister on the lower bunk. I leaned my back against the wall and started on chapter two. Six pages in and I heard gentle snores.
I stopped reading and waited. Nothing.
Then I ate my pretzels.