S’mores, Camping and “The Dangerous Book for Boys”

Genevieve usually has a mid-morning snack around 10:00am. This morning, as she arranged graham crackers on her pink and purple dotted paper plate (G uses all the left-over birthday party paper ware that I’ve collected over the years, which feature elaborate flower patterns in vibrant colors or cartoon characters like Strawberry Shortcake, Yugi-oh and the Incredible Hulk), Gigi recited (with great accuracy) all the ingredients for the perfect S’more.

“Then, you melt the graham cracker and the insides over a campfire, Mom.” (Pause) “That’s what we’re going to do on our camping trip — make s’mores.”

What?! What camping trip? How does she know about camping? I don’t do camping in the great California wilderness…or anywhere. “Who told you we were going on a camping trip, G?”

“Charlie. He drawed a map and a picture of a tent. I’m going to have the princess sleeping bag that Chloe had when she was a little girl like me.”

“We don’t have a tent, Gigi.” I grasp the side of the kitchen counter as visions of striking rattlesnakes and crawling venomous recluse spiders swirl in my head. I try to remember, are there West Nile virus issues or ticks on the west coast?

“Charlie is going to build a tent…for the whole family, Mommy.”

“What if we had a S’mores Party on the grill… right here… on the back deck. Let’s do that this weekend!” (Surely my enthusiasm about an immediate at-home S’mores Party will redirect all thoughts of camping trips and tents.)

“Nope. Charlie said s’mores taste really good when you go camping and build a campfire.”

Dear God in Heaven…”Umm…how does Charlie know all this, G? I don’t think he’s ever gone camping, himself.”

Gigi disappears from the kitchen in a flash, pounds up and down the stairs and zips back into the room toting a red book. “He reads this,” G says, lifting the heavy volume toward me.

“The Dangerous Book for Boys”….I peer inside and see all manner of underlines and earmarks. Ah yes, I remember this book now. It was all the craze when Max was a younger tike, a book that he barely cracked, as I recall, before moving on to other titles and interests. A quick scan of the Table of Contents and some of the earmarked pages and notations (clearly in Charlie’s handwriting), leaves me shaken but enlightened. He’s been studying this manual quite thoroughly. In my hands, clearly, is the source of some of his random questions of late about Swiss Army Knives, compasses and how many fancy nautical knots I know how to make (answer: 0). A book like this…in the hands of a boy like Charlie…dangerous indeed.

I can’t seem to locate the section on camping just now, but I gently balance it atop my mounting pile of bedside reading, anxious to uncover the dangerous knowledge that awaits within and, more importantly, to discover which pages are most fascinating to my eight-year-old son. I begin to ponder all the photo opportunities and writing moments that may come my way if I am somehow able to summon the courage to lead a Bollinger camping expedition. Pushing all thoughts of snakes and spiders aside, I fantasize about the bonding moments…the good talks…the stunning vistas…that could be mine. And the campfire s’mores, insides melting…

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