It had been a fun day. Her first time camping. She had her first night in a tent ahead of her. And she was just about to enjoy her first ever officially cooked on a fire while camping s’more. Not her first ever s’more, of course. She’d had plenty of those, but never one while camping where the marshmallows were toasted in the coals of a fire.
The long drive to get here seemed a distant memory even though she’d been in the car longer that day than she’d actually been in the camp. That time would even out and the swing the other way while she was sleeping that night. The days ahead stretched with endless possibilities.
Her little legs kicked freely, dangling from her camp chair. The fire warmed her legs. It was surprising how quickly it was getting cold now that the sun had set. It had been a warm day but it certainly seemed like it was going to be a cold night. She wished she could get a little closer to the fire but it seemed like too much a production to get off the chair, scoot it closer, and then climb back in. Besides, she would have her s’more soon and then it’s deliciousness would distract her from the cold.
The fire crackled, a pinecone she stuck in the coals earlier popped, the giant trees around rustled their millions of needles, and somewhere off in the darkness the river whispered its lulling song. The river. The river. The river.
She had caught glimpses of it while they’d been driving into camp but hadn’t yet been down to it. The day had been too full of setting up camp to explore it yet. Tomorrow, though, she knew she’d get to feel its icy waters, see its roaring torrents, and play at its edge.
Her s’more was handed to her, its marshmallows browned to perfection and the chocolate already beginning to melt beneath their warmth. She was tempted to shove as much into her mouth as she could at once but decided to let it cool first. Her eyes drifted across the fire to their neighbor’s camp. He had a fire, too. It was smaller than her fire and that was surprising. His wood pile had been huge.
In the dancing shadows she could see him sitting in a chair by himself and this made her frown. Didn’t seem right that he should be by himself. And, it didn’t look like he was fixing s’mores either. That very much did not seem right.
An idea came to her and she carefully scooted forward in her chair, balancing her s’more in one hand while using the other to help guide her way, until her toes touched the dirt and she could stand up. Her dad was by her side an instant later, asking, “Where you going, honey?”
“I’m going to ask our neighbor if he wants a s’more, too.”
“That’s very kind of you. He might want to be left alone, though.”
She smiled her biggest smile and replied, “It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
And then, before her father could argue, she marched carefully away from her own fire, still cradling the s’more in one hand, and avoiding all the stumps and rocks she’d made note of while it was still light, through the dark stretches between the two camps until she was at the edge of light created by her neighbor’s fire. She slowed then, not wanting to startle him, and suddenly a bit nervous, bu he must have heard her coming because he turned and greeted her with a large, warm, smile.
“Hello there, beautiful night isn’t it.”
He was older than he’d looked from the distance between the camps when she’d watched him earlier. The light from his fire splashed across his face, his wrinkles casting shadows of their own. The smile won her over before her nerves had a chance to really frighten her.
“Would you like a s’more?” she asked, holding her own out to him.
“Oh? Why I haven’t had one of those longer than you’ve been alive. I didn’t even bring the stuff to make them this trip. I remember them being very tasty, though. Are you sure you want to part with it?”
She had only just met him but could tell he was being silly. It was something in his voice and something in the way his eyes sparkled. She supposed that could have been the fire light but she doubted it. She doubted it very much.
“We have a lot stuff to make more. I’m planning on having at least two every night we’re here. It’s not a real camping out campfire unless you have a s’more.”
“No? No. I supposed you’re right. Well, then I’d be honored to have one, thank you.”
And with that he took the s’more from her with one of his large, weathered hands and immediately took a bite. Marshmallow stuck to the corners of his lips and somehow a dob of chocolate wound up on his nose. She couldn’t help but giggle. He didn’t seem to mind the mess or the laughter. If anything, his eyes grew even merrier.
“Oh, yes, just as I had remembered. Very tasty, indeed.”
“You’re welcome to join us at our campfire, if you’d like,” her mom said from right behind her.
Somehow her mom had crossed from their camp without her hearing and her sudden arrival made her jump ever so slightly but then when she’d realized it was just her mom she went back to grinning at her new friend.
“That is very kind of you,” he replied, still smiling with chocolate on his nose and marshmallow fluff smeared to his cheeks. “I would love to join your fire tomorrow night, if you’ll have then. Tonight I’m already settled into my chair.”
“Perfect! We’ll have a chair for you and everything. Just come on down after dinner and we’ll make s’mores again,” the little girl replied, her excitement causing the words to come out in a loud rush. Then she skipped back to her own fire, heedless of the rocks and roots that might grab a foot if she wasn’t careful, knowing that her father had almost certainly made another s’more for her. She was ready for it.
She’d made a new friend. She was camping. Tomorrow was going to be an adventure.
And, in the distance, she could still hear the blurbling and bubbling sounds of the river. It was like magic, that sound, just like she knew this whole trip was going to be. Magic.
Perhaps the river was the source of it all. Perhaps it was the magic. Maybe she’d find out tomorrow. She figured she’d dream about it that night. She had before, having only seen it in pictures and heard stories from her parents. In fact, she was certain it must be magic.
The river. The river. The river.
Making it safely back to her chair, having ignored her mom’s calls to slow down and be careful, she climbed in and started kicking her feet again. A moment later her dad handed her another s’more and this time she didn’t’ wait. She just crunched right in. She felt the marshmallows smear onto her cheeks and nose and she giggled happily, contently, magically, while she ate.
8 thoughts on “the first timer”
what a beautiful retelling of firsts and kindness, and will be a memory forever
Part 3 of my “river” series of posts. I feel like maybe the mountains are calling to me a bit stronger than normal at the moment.
oh, i think so –
Soon. Hopefully. Have a great day. Thank you for always reading and commenting.
Love this to the core. Hope you get to answer the call soon. Maybe someday you will get to make that a permanent place. Then the mountains won’t need to call you because you will always be there. Take care, Matticus.
That is the dream. A forest for a backyard. Mountains out my kitchen window. Ah, to dream. Thank you, my friend, for always reading and commenting too.
Your blog popped up on Twitter this morning. What a great find! I love these pieces a lot.
I’m glad you are enjoying them. Thank you.