Bonfires, joyful chaos and food on sticks
Before I became an urban monk, I had an abundance of pastoral family outings in Pennsylvania. The photo with little brother Liam was taken at the cottage where we escaped the urban fervor and concrete back yard for family cookouts. In the lovely dark, deep woods a cookout could escalate into a weekend of bonfires, joyful chaos, and roasting food on sticks.
As a city dweller I was discouraged from experimenting with fire. Not so in the country. The elements were our toys. We were masters of creation and destruction. I once stepped in melted marshmallows in my new white Keds. Instead of scraping it off, I decided to be clever. I put my foot at the edge of the fire and burned the marshmallow off. Ow, ow ... my foot is on fire! Keds burn too. To quote David St. Hubbins, "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." ...
It was the place where I remember my old Irish relatives being hilarious. My great aunt Ruth on a riding mower ... in full nun's habit. Girl's just gotta have fun. When I dropped a hot dog in the dirt, my great Uncle Bobby said, "It's okay, Bobby. You gotta eat a pound of dirt before you die." Baffling advice.
It's where I learned the value of punctuation. Great Aunt Mary once found this note: "Joe in / lock up." So she went down to the local jail. It never occurred to her that Uncle Joe was in and she should lock up.
We used to wolf down hot dogs, hamburgers and corn on the cob, then against medical advice, run down to the creek and jump in. No cramps, no drowning. Then a neighbor started dumping raw sewage into the water. After reason failed, it was time for a covert operation.
Under cover of night my father mustered his beery mercenaries, waded to the other side and packed the sewage pipe with concrete, a dry log (it would expand when wet), more concrete, another log, etc. I sneaked down to the water to watch. It was a work of art. The next day my cousin Sean shipped out for Vietnam. I never saw him again, but I remember his hysterical laughter as he tried to float a tub of concrete across our creek on Memorial Day.
Sometimes a good cookout is much more than just food on sticks.
(Photo courtesy of OMG)