When we started planning Sam's 11th birthday party, it sounded like at least two of the friends he wanted to invite weren't going to be able to make it. So, we decided to host a make-up party (like last year) for Wiley and Eric. It turned out that Eric was able to come to the first party after all but we asked him to come along on the second one anyway. Last weekend, on the 30th of August, while Cam was visiting the Maddux clan, in Chicago, I took one car load of boys with me to the beach.
When Cam's around, I don't normally make the fire. I don't normally carry firewood either. This time, I carried some but the kids helped by carrying some of the heavy bundles of firewood too. Sam and Wiley had been working together to transport one bundle, sometimes carrying it then turning it end over end or rolling it. After carrying one bundle of his own, Eric went back and picked theirs up for them. I hope they weren't sore the next day. I was, embarrassingly.
After two trips from the car, when all of our stuff was unloaded, the kids headed towards the water. The weather was lovely. We didn't have as much wind this time but it may have been a bit cooler. No one went swimming. They contentedly built elaborate and interesting sand sculptures, instead.
I started trying to build a fire. I'd brought what I thought was a fire starting log (with all natural ingre-
dients). The directions said I didn't need paper so I didn't bring any. I'm not sure why I thought one box of already-opened matches was plenty. I really thought I would only need a few. Of course, the wind kept blowing the matches out and I wasn't sure what I was going to do.
Humbled, I appro-
ached some folks on the beach who had a fire success-
fully burning. They had a lighter (the kind you use to light a grill) which they generously lent to me. The boys came up from the beach and wanted to help. Eric suggested we use one of the blankets as a wind block. Great idea but I still couldn't even get the lighter to stay lit. Discouraged, we returned the it. Thankfully, a man named Ernie took pity on me and came over to start our fire.
He suggested moving the materials down behind the mound I had them sitting upon to use it as added windbreak. Then, he asked for paper. I did have the instructions for our hike to Pirate's Cove, "Seek it if you dare." Since none of the kids wanted to hike, we happily crumpled them up and burned them. At Wiley's mom's suggestion, I'd brought things to read. While I didn't get to read the Time magazine with Barack's picture on the front, it made great kindling. Cam pointed out that my magazine wasn't all natural or non-toxic but it burned.
The boys roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, drank their natural soda, then started burning sticks. I told them how, "No playing in the fire" had been a rule at the first birthday party. A few minutes later, they were still curiously experimenting with fire on the end of their sticks. I thought about calling them out on it but I also thought about how they will be having bonfires on their own before we turn around twice. So, I decided to just document and observe.
Later, I remembered how when I was young, my mom told my brother and I that we could play with matches whenever we wanted, provided an adult was around. I guess I think the idea has some merit. We know kids are curious and will experiment. I believe it is safer for them to do it in front of us than behind our backs.
In some of the shots, taken through the flames, the kids look awfully close to the fire. I think some of them are beautiful and hope the boys' parents will agree.
I want to thank them for letting their sons come out and celebrate with us. It was great fun.
This Flickr set has more photos of the make-up birthday bonfire at Muir Beach.