I shouldn’t have been surprised by the smell of campfire smoke; it was a bonfire party, after all. But I don’t remember much of my childhood and when I stumble across something that draws me back to those days, it catches me off guard.
Tonight I am in two places at once.
I am on the camping trip with my dead father, the one we took when I was in sixth or seventh grade. The campground, Pine Grove it was called, was also a waterfowl reservation – but nobody told us. We were woken up at five forty-five every morning by those Canadian geese. I named the one with the metal ring around his neck and fed them the crusts from my pb&j sandwiches. We wrapped potatoes in aluminum foil and cooked them in the campfire once it burned down to just the red coals. We ate creamed corn from a can and instant mashed potatoes from a cardboard box.
I remember lying in our tent at night with top flap open; Chincoteague always had such clear skies. It was better to go in the summertime, before the late-August mosquitoes came. My father had studied astronomy in college, before he dropped out because his mother was ill or some girlfriend broke his heart. He didn’t like to talk about those days. But he remembered the stories behind Orion’s Belt, the three sisters, and Andromeda – the chained lady. He could point out Polaris with his eyes closed.