“Alright Jack, you’re old enough now, you get to learn how to build a fire.” Said Marcus.
“really?” Asked Jack. Jack was 10 years old, and had not been allowed to be nearer than a marshmallow stick to the fire up until this point.
“Yep. With supervision.” Marcus wanted him to learn a skill, but he wasn’t stupid.
“Okay! What do I do first?”
“Well, what do we need before we can have a fire?” Asked Marcus.
“Marshmallows!” Said Jack.
“Close. What else?”
“Sure, for now.”
Jack looked at his father, puzzled. “What do you mean ‘for now’?”
“I mean, matches are a good start, but they’re not the only way.”
“well yeah, lighters” said Jack.
“Lighters too, but there are other ways. Flint and steel, a magnifying glass, a 9-volt battery.”
“What?” Jack was suddenly skeptical, “a 9-volt battery?”
“Trust me,” said Marcus, “It works.”
“Okay, so the answer we’re looking for is Tinder, Kindling, and bigger wood that will burn for longer. Your job right now is to gather things you think might make good tinder and put them in little piles so we can see them. I’ll get the kindling and larger firewood.”
From there, Jack and Marcus spent the next half hour looking for Birch Bark, Pine Needles, Jack Pine, and all manner or small flammable things. Marcus showed him how the exposed grain of the wood burnt much better than the bark and how to split wood safely with the hatchet and a broad stick.
Then they built a fire, and had their s’mores. Even today, the swell of pride at the memory of their first fire burned within him when he remembered that day. The way that Jack had been so careful of the fire, without being timid; how he’d built up the size slowly, heeding Marcus’s warning that fire was easier to grow than to shrink; and how at the beginning, the fire had almost gone out, but jack had quickly grabbed some tinder and gently breathed life back into the fire.
Jack took to it and was even excited to split the wood. They had laughed so hard the first time jack had come up with the “death chant technique” of getting more power from his 10 year-old body with each strike. He’d hit it shouting “Die! Die! Die!” and would manage to get a surprising amount of power out of his strokes.
They stayed up late into the night and were treated to clear skies under a multitude of glittering, glimmering stars. At least, that’s how Marcus remembered it.
Who knows what the weather had been. It didn’t matter. Sometimes details are shaped and perfected in our memory allowing the spirit and meaning we attach to them to shine through, more than if they were unrefined.