Today’s “Around the Campfire” looks a little different. I want to share my first campfire story and then hear yours, too.
Our grandchildren recently asked, “Do you remember your first campfire?” After a short pause to consider, I smiled. “Yes, I do. I was 10 years old. It was a campfire at church camp.” Of course, they wanted to hear all of the details, so I told them about my very first campfire.
Camp Okoboji was (and still is) located in northwest Iowa, on Lake Okoboji. This natural lake is part of the series of lakes known as the Iowa Great Lakes. Originally created by glaciers, natural springs continue to provide Lake Okoboji with clear, beautiful, blue water. It’s the perfect setting for a camp.
A fourth-grade schoolmate introduced me to the idea of attending Camp Okoboji. She wanted to go, and I could be her bunkmate. At only 10 years old, being away from home for five consecutive days and nights seemed risky, if not downright impossible, to me. I’d only been overnight away from home once before, and my homesickness forced my dad to come rescue me a little before midnight. Camp Okoboji was almost 100 miles from our home. There was no way Dad would make a “rescue trip” a little before midnight—or at any other time of night or day, for that matter!
My friend’s excitement and fantasy-inspired ideas of how wonderful camp would be soon made me feel excited, too. My mom helped me complete the camp registration, and I remember that I took the family wall calendar (provided free of charge from our local corn elevator) off the wall. Steadily, I wrote “Camp Okoboji,” my letters all stretched out like this C—A—M—P—-O—K—O—B—O—J—I, so that the letters completely covered one full week in June. By this time, I was genuinely looking forward to my time at camp.
The day before my friend and I were scheduled to leave for camp, her mother called to say her daughter (my bunkmate) was sick. She could not go to camp with me. My bunkmate was a “no-show,” and I was, well, suddenly terrified.
Headed to camp
I knew full well that my parents would make me go anyway—they’d somehow managed to scrape together enough money to pay the camp fees, Mom bought a few new camp clothes for me to wear, and my aunt made a special trip to our house (27 miles!) just so that I could borrow her suitcase! Even little 10-year-old me knew we’d already invested way too much into Camp Okoboji for me to consider backing out!
My first day at camp was okay. I liked making the craft of the day, though I don’t remember what it was. (It’s been over 50 years!) I went to the Camp Store and bought my dad a souvenir back scratcher. (Funny how I clearly remember that!) Camp food was good, and I remember the cooks offering refills of “moo juice” (milk), which I thought was hilarious and couldn’t wait to tell my dad, a small-herd dairy farmer!
All was well until I noticed the sun dipping lower in the sky. I started to miss my family. First, just a little. Then, more and more! It wasn’t long before the 100 miles of separation felt more like 1,000!
As darkness descended, the camp counselor announced that it was “Campfire Time.” The last thing I wanted to do was go to a campfire. For one thing, the summer air was still quite warm and humid. For another, I was miserably homesick and didn’t want anyone to know.
My very first campfire
I went. Along with the other girls in our cabin, we made our way down toward the lake. A campfire was already burning brightly, its flames clearly reflecting in the calm lake water.
We sang silly songs and learned even sillier accompanying actions. We made s’mores and ate them. Then we sang some more, prayed together, and suddenly I didn’t feel quite so homesick. I felt warm (in a good way) and safe and loved. And that was my very first campfire. (If you’re wondering, Dad didn’t have to come and rescue me, after all.)
Do you remember your first campfire? Tell me about it in the comments below, please. I can’t wait to hear.