“I want big flames. And I mean big. None of this one log at a time stuff.”
My friend dropped three piles of wood by the firepit and sloshed back through the mud for two more. Up until that moment, the most we had ever burned on a weekend camping trip was two bundles. We were fixing to burn past that record in a single sitting.
I gathered the starter materials together and fumbled with the matches. You never know 50 degrees and rain is so cold until you’ve been camping in nothing but a leaky tent for 24 hours. For an entire day we’d sat dripping at the picnic table, eating soggy sandwiches and contemplating how even a bad day camping could beat almost any day anyplace else.
“I’ve never been so happy to be so miserable,” I said more than once.
Earlier that day we had gone for a seven mile run, and then because we felt we couldn’t be any more cold or wet than we already were, we leaped into the frigid waters of a recently thawed lake. For the record, it was in fact possible to feel more cold and wet. And we did.
Now we were trying to warm up. With the rain slowed to a drizzle, we coaxed the nascent flames to the size and shape of a convection oven. Then we inserted ourselves.
Shortly thereafter my feet started smoking. I yanked them from the edge of the fire to discover a nickel-sized divot melted into the bottom of my boot. Ah, well. I inched back a little and rotated my feet. My friend just inched closer. We stayed, huddled to the flames, until the last log burned to coals.
The next day dawned clear, and we packed our damp gear for our return home. I didn’t notice at first that my friend moved with a slight hobble. Or that a faint flip-flip-flip sound was coming from her direction. She inconspicuously sidled away. Then,
“I know.” She took another step.
The sole of one boot had come loose and was flapping with every step. She gingerly loaded a bag into the car, trying not to loosen it anymore. But between the soaking rains and the melting fire, the entire bottom of her boot was peeling away. Every move made it worse. Flip-flop. Flip-flop.
By the time we stopped for ice cream a couple hours later, the second boot sole had sprung loose. Between the squeaking leather and the slapping soles, her shoes had turned into a personal symphony. Squeak. Flip. Squoosh. Fleep. Flop. Squeak.
“You could patent that,” I said.
“Just buy the ice cream.”
For some reason my friend was never as enamored with her new flip-flop boots as I was. To me they encapsulated all that is wonderful in the world: cool rain, warm fire, the great outdoors. And a good story that warmed my heart not only as it was unfolding, but every time I think of it. And also every time I walk next to my friend and whisper, “Flip-flop, flip-flop…”
God gives us the best kind of memories to keep us warm inside, no matter what the weather is doing outside. What memory are you thankful for today?