Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Memories

The night I decided to talk to her she sat in front of glowing campfire. We'd been camping neighbors at Sugar Point Campgrounds for two nights, she in her tent along with her golden retriever, me in my truck camper, alone.
I hadn't seen her during the day, only at night as she sat in front of a fire in a folding chair, her dog lying by her side.
I'd spent my daytime hours on the lake fishing, getting up at sunrise—she was still sleeping in her tent—returning just before dusk, then cleaning fish, making supper in my camper, and hitting the sack early.
What did she do all day? Why was she alone except for her dog? I mean, she was a very attractive blond-haired lady of perhaps forty—my age. The license plates on her mini van indicated she was from the same county in the eastern part of the state as I was. Did we live in the same city?
On the third night, curiosity getting the best of me, sucking in a deep breath, not knowing what to expect—she might think me a predator—I approached her campsite, coffee pot and two Styrofoam cups in hand.
"Hi," I said, as she looked up from her chair. "Great fire. Nice cool night." I gazed up at the oblong moon surrounded by a zillion stars, then at her. "Thought you might like a cup of coffee. Decaffeinated, so it won't keep you up all night."
Her dog rose to a sitting position, wagging its tail. "Lady, stay," she said. Then to me, "I'd love a cup of coffee. It's the one thing I forgot to pack."
I set the cups on the picnic table, poured, and handed her one. "I've got sugar—"
"This'll be fine—I don't have another chair."
"No problem," I said. "Name's Chad Arnold. Attorney, from Lewistown."
"Dawn Davidson. Principal, Roosevelt Junior High. New Liberty. Just down the road."
That info pleasing me, we shook hands. Then I sat at the picnic table, and she smiled.
That's all it took to start us off talking. As the oblong moon drifted across the sky and crickets started singing, she told me she was a widow. Her husband had died two years ago. When everyone was younger, the family camped every summer. She was alone now. Her boys had married and moved away. "I did this last year," she said. "Just Lady and me, camping. It's a way to stay in touch with some of my fondest memories."
"I agree—keeping memories alive is important." Then I felt obliged to tell her my story. Divorced five years ago. No kids. Camped and fished with my mom and dad when I was young. Started camping and fishing last year by myself to get away and relax.
She smiled again in the firelight—I loved her smile. Her eyes appeared to be blue. "We didn't fish," she said. "Hiking, waterskiing, swimming, and cooking over a campfire—that was our thing. Lots of singing around the fire, too. My husband played the guitar."
I thought of asking her to go fishing with me in the morning, but since she'd probably never fished before—and I guessed she liked to sleep in—I tossed the idea. She thanked me for the coffee, and we said goodnight. Climbing into my camper, I chided myself for not asking her if she liked to eat fish—we could have a fish fry tomorrow night. But maybe she'd think I was coming on too strong. What to do?
When I came in early from fishing the next afternoon, she and Lady had left in her mini van. The tent was still there, though—she hadn't gone home. I still had a chance. Shortly after I cleaned my fish and showered, she returned. Setting three bags of groceries on her picnic table, she then shuffled over to my campsite, Lady beside her, tail wagging.
She looked flushed, pink rising in her cheeks. Nervous maybe. "Um...I was wondering"—her eyes were definitely blue—"um...if you'd like to eat a campfire supper with me tonight. Hot dogs. Bratwurst."
I swear, my heart jumped into my throat, and it took a moment before I could find my voice. "This is so weird," I said. "I was going to ask you to eat fish with me."
Another smile. A big one that made those blue eyes sparkle. "I asked you first," she said.
"I know. And I can't believe it. Hot dogs and bratwurst it is! You ever been crappie fishing?"
"Uh-uh. You ever been blueberry picking?"
We both smiled this time. And when she said, "I think we've got a lot to talk about," I pictured both of us perhaps making a new set of memories.

The End
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