Back when the wife and I were younger and the kids were not so busy starting their own lives, we were a family of campers. On most weekends it was hard to find us anywhere but out in the woods with the perfect little camp set up, living off of what fish we caught or what little food we stuffed in the cooler. Camping was a way of life for us and it is where many memories were made and the time spent being together as a family was priceless.
At that time we lived on the old farm and every day was just like camping to us anyway. Our house was nestled back in the woods hidden from the road, we cooked outside over an open fire for our meals and a few times a year had to live off the glowing light of lanterns until we came up with the money for the electricity bill. Even still, at every opportunity we would pack up the old short bed Ford and head to the lake.
It is funny to say, but our camp site was always set up better than the way we actually lived. A large tent for me and the wife and a little smaller one for the girls were the first items assembled to mark our small claim of land for the weekend. Next on the list was a cooking area. A few stacked sandstone rocks to make a circled pit and done, presto, instant kitchen.
Being the basic shelter and food needs met, I would venture off to gather wood while the wife and girls teamed up and made our little spot more like a home. They would set up the eating area with tables and chairs, hang a clothes line to dry our clothes after swimming and furnish the tents with whatever was packed in the truck.
I could never help but smile when I heard the sounds of laughter coming from the campsite echoing through the dense trees. My heart would warm and I felt just maybe, everything will be ok. At that moment, nothing else in life mattered but those little girls playing tag around a makeshift rock fire pit.
The one activity we loved doing while camping was watching the sunset. We would all sit in the grass by the water and watch the sun slowly sink it's way into the horizon. The girls would always try and time it by counting backwards "10... 9... 8..." until the sun showed no longer and had finally gone to bed.
We would continue to sit and marvel at the lasting effects the sun had left on the sky.
The girls would pick out colors and point upward with such intensity, "Look! I see purple, and pink over there". Another would say, "I see blue and yellow and....."
The wife and I would hold hands and smile at one another knowing without words, that this will be tucked away in the memories of the girls forever.
At dusk you could find us still sitting in the same spot waiting for the next one of Gods marvels to come out and play.
Then there it is! One of the girls would always be the first to spot it. "Look Daddy, a firefly". They would all take off running to try and catch it.
One would look back at me and mommy and say "Look, look another one, and another, there everywhere Mommy".
Flashes of light were darting the now darkened landscape and the girls quickly remembered to stand still and they might just get lucky and one would land on them. A truly marvelous sight, all three girls standing as still as their excitement would let them, grass up to their waste with fireflies dancing around their heads. A picture I will hold onto forever.
When the oldest could not contain herself a moment longer she ran over to me.
"Daddy, can you please catch me a firefly"
Me, "I can try baby"
I stood up and walked over to the grass, stuck out my hand and stood still. Luckily after a minute a lone firefly came by and landed in my open hand. I slowly and carefully cupped my hands together and brought them down to where the girls were standing.
Me, "Come here and look, I caught you a firefly" I whispered to them.
I slowly bent down on one knee as the three girls huddled in close around. They softly whispering "let me see, let me see daddy".
Their excitement was unbelievable, eyes opened wide and sparkling like new silver dollars in the moon light.
I slowly opened my hands just a little and as if the firefly new, right on cue it started lighting up and dancing for his young audience.
The girls all together at once whispered a long drawled out "Wow".
The oldest girl looked up at me with a tear in her eye and said "You are the best daddy in the world".
A lump the size of Texas formed in my throat as I stood up and turned around. I brought my cupped hands up close to my mouth and as I opened them to let the firefly go I softly whispered, "Thank you Mr. Firefly" and watched him fly away.