A Friendship Fire
From The Old House by Curt Iles
It’s a beautiful March night. During this third month of the year, the nights are cool and the days are normally mild. The blossoms of spring begin to show off- the azaleas, dogwoods, and honeysuckle. Most of the days are full of blue skies and moderate temperatures. Best of all, the mosquitoes haven’t become a nightly nuisance.
Therefore, I hunt for every chance I can to be outside in March. It’s a great month for my youngest son, Terry, and I to build what we call a “Friendship Fire.” I’m not sure where the name came from, but I believe Terry, age twelve, came up with it. Often, he will come to me and say, “Daddy, let’s build a friendship fire tonight.”
We’ll venture out behind our house in the edge of the field. It is far enough from the lights that the darkness is deep and the sky reveals itself on clear nights. In the field is an area where we pile dead limbs. On these cool clear nights, we’ll bring our lawn chairs, maybe some marshmallows, and just sit around a blazing fire built from stacked limbs.
Soon we are joined by our faithful dogs, Eddie, Ivory, and Happy. As we sit there, our faces illuminated by the firelight, Ivory puts her head on my leg, begging to be petted. If I don’t pet her, she’ll gently pick up my hand in her mouth and quickly put her muzzle under my hand. She likes my attention and companionship just as much as I enjoy hers.
As requested, Terry has brought his guitar. In the firelight he softly strums chords. He asks, “What do you want to hear, daddy?”
“Whatever you want to play, Terry. You can’t play a song I won’t enjoy.”
He plays and I lay back and study the stars. When Terry finishes playing, we sit there in silence. We are both comfortable sitting here quietly. In special friendships, silence says just as much as words. We enjoy each other and we both know it.
I lean back and watch the embers going up into the dark night sky. I try to see how high they glow before fading out. I breathe deeply. This time is priceless. No telephone, no TV, no interruptions.
The only noticeable noises are the sounds of the night. With the advent of spring, the crickets are chirping again. The song carries a long way and echoes off the pine forest across our field. For probably the millionth time in my life, I thank God I live in the country.
Terry breaks the human silence and my reflections with his usual statement, “Well, Daddy what do you want to talk about?” I smile and look into the fire. “Oh, it doesn’t matter. What would you like to talk about? ” Invariably we talk about the usual things: school, baseball, recess, God, music, the stars, our dogs…
At the sound of our voices after this period of silence, Ivory thumps her massive tail on the ground in a rhythm that is similar to the crickets as they chirp. Eddie, our rat Terrier, jumps up, and barks into the darkness to remind us that he is guarding our camp fire. Happy puts his head against my leg as a reminder that he wants to be petted, too.
It is a special time around the friendship fire. After roasting marshmallows, we reluctantly return to the world of homework, electricity, and television. As we grope our way toward the back porch, Terry lets me put my arm around his shoulder. The thought hits me on how soon a boy becomes a teenager, and then although they love you no less, they don’t want your hand on their shoulder, and they politely decline your invitation to
sit at a friendship fire.
When those years come, it’ll probably just be me and the dogs out here. Nevertheless, for now, I just believe we’ll build a bunch of friendship fires in the coming year.
From the book, The Old House, by Curt Iles.
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