Friday, December 2, 2011

Fire away: June 12, 2005

Testosterone should be a controlled substance. The more years I spend as the only woman in my house, the more firmly I believe this.

Mama don’t allow no campfire built around here

    It is campfire season, and there is nothing like a campfire to remind me that I am the only girl in the house.

    When I sit by a campfire with my husband and our 5-year-old son I see the potential for serious burns, the hazards of popping embers, the insane dangers of allowing a little boy to deposit sticks onto a pile of furiously burning wood.

    When my husband and son sit by a campfire, they wonder what in the vicinity they can find to burn, how quickly it will burn and how soon they can find something else to burn.

    "What about this?" my son chirps, holding aloft a red plastic cup.

    "Sure," says my husband. "That will burn."

    It does not, in fact, burn. It melts, which is even better.

    "Oooooooh," my son intones, gazing at the gooey plastic as it dissolves into the flames. "Coooool."

    I am wondering if he is going to develop lung cancer later in life from breathing the fumes of the melting cup. I am gauging how big a villain I will become if I declare a no-burning-plastic rule.

    My husband is telling the story of how he used to burn model cars in his back yard with his brothers.

    "I’d build them and paint them and then we’d go out back and light them on fire," he says, smiling mistily at the memory.

    "Your mother let you light fires in the back yard?" I ask.

    He shrugs. "I guess so."

    Well, I know his mother, and I would bet she did NOT let those boys light fires in the back yard. They just did it anyway. Little monsters.

    There are a few other guys sitting around this campfire with us. One of them picks up a bottle of lighter fluid and sprays some into the flames, which leap briefly skyward. My son’s eyes nearly pop from his head.

    "What is THAT?" he shrieks.

    "It is very, very dangerous," I declare.

    "Not really," one of the guys sighs. "They’ve watered it down so much it hardly even works anymore."

    "Yeah," says another guy. "I remember when that stuff was really powerful. The fire could climb up the stream and blow up the whole bottle."

    There is a moment of reverential silence as the men watch the fire and contemplate the good old days of real lighter fluid.

    Meanwhile, my son has found a long stick and is poking the fire with it. With the end ablaze, he holds the stick triumphantly up. "A torch," he squeals. "Look at my torch!"

    He swings the burning stick around, and I grab it from him.

    "Do not swing burning sticks around," I say. "You can have the stick back, but if you light it and swing it around anymore, I will take it from you."

    So of course I took it away from him two minutes later, and he started looking for something else to burn.

    A few days later, my son gazed up at me and asked, "Do you remember when we had a big fire and burned that red cup, and it melted?"

    "Yeah," I said. "I remember."

    "Wasn’t that fun?" he asked, smiling and looking exactly the way his father did as he recalled torching model cars behind his boyhood home.

    I lean over my son.

    "Just for the record," I say. "You MAY NOT light fires in our yard."

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