We had just been married a few weeks. Keith was on a camping trip with the youth group. On Friday morning, my only day off of the campout, I drove the two-hour trip to enjoy the day with them at the state park.
It had rained the night before, and everything was damp. We spent part of the day dealing with wet camping gear, but also swimming, hiking and other fun.
When dinner time approached, my husband tried to start a campfire for the hotdogs and s’mores. He had a metal can of Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Fluid, the kind you squeeze onto the wood. He tried to start a fire with this damp wood and kindling, throwing matches on that would not fully catch on fire. He doused it some more, then threw another match.
The lit match-squirt pattern continued until finally the fire took hold and shot up during the squirt phase. Our previously non-existent fire leapt from the ground up to become a flame thrower’s masterpiece–a flaming river flowing up from the ground. He instinctively threw the flaming bottle up and out of his hand. “We’re all gonna die!” he yelled. In that split second he pictured the metal can had sucked the fire into the fuel and became a bomb ready to explode (as we had seen on recent news warnings).
Being the brave fool I was, I grabbed not a handful of dirt, but someone’s sleeping bag that had been drying on a makeshift clothesline. I smothered the fire, which had spread out of the fire ring.
I don’t recall where or if it was spreading really; it was damp there in this forest and obviously not a fire tinder box ready to create a forest fire. Fortunately the charcoal fluid bomb fizzled, but the scorched and ruined sleeping bag now needed to be replaced. So, instead of sitting around the campfire, I drove to Target in the nearest town and bought a new sleeping bag so the teenager could sleep that night.
Fast forward 38 years. Last week was our anniversary, and we reminisced about some early memories, this one included. At the time he yelled “We’re all gonna die!” I wondered what I had gotten myself into. He may have wondered about me too.
Today Keith is known in meetings and groups as the non-anxious presence–a wise leader, looked to for surety and strength.
It’s good to not look too soon for the final person another will become–this wisdom is not just for children, but for partners, as well. Thanks be to God that we have hung onto each other through all kinds of exposing behaviors, and I am so grateful.
“Think of a memory related to fire. How did it impact you then? What meaning do you forge from it now?”