When I was a teenager, I would go to camping once a year with a couple hundred other girls. Well, they called it camping—we had two very nice buildings on either end of camp filled with showers, sinks, mirrors, and toilets that flushed. My husband has since informed me that that is not camping. But I digress.
There were a lot of things to love about that experience. I still have in-jokes (that’s one of them) with some of the girls I camped with all those years ago, and that was the first place I learned that you could crochet with your fingers. But my very favorite part was when the air grew cold, the forest grew dark, and the dancing shadows from the fire sparked visions of monsters slipping between the trees, just out of sight. That was when we broke out the marshmallows, huddled close together, and hung on every word of the night’s storyteller.
The best campfire stories, it was commonly agreed, came from one of the Camp Dads. He would lapse into a rolling Irish accent as he told us of white coffins, ruined castles, and his boyhood escapades in Ireland. His most chilling tale was told only after swearing each person to secrecy to avoid the risk of gruesome death.
The thing about campfire stories is that they only happen once. Even if someone tells the same story twice, it’s never quite the same. The words chosen, the rise and fall of the voice, the length of silences, the wind that rustles the leaves—all of it will create a new story every time.
But in spite of having heard these stories only once, they’ve stayed with me through the years. Not just the content, but the chills, the sound of his voice, the images of a country I had never seen. I knew then that I wanted to do that—to create something that would stick, that people would remember and treasure, that would inspire someone to leave behind a comfort zone for a dream.
I’m not there yet. Maybe I never will be. But I won’t be satisfied until I’ve tried.