Story-starters, fagot-finders, and flame-broiled whoppers

"Did you attach the key onto the outside of the Buick with a Band-Aid?," I asked the Woolly Mammoth. It wasn't a good start to the morning. He had left the car at the train station for his brother in the wee hours by my standard--after eight p.m. The three of us are sharing one working vehicle, one non-working vehicle, and a mass-transit system that leaves something to be desired for these few summer weeks. Our jobs and schedules are not yet braiding together in seamless harmony like the warf and woop of the cosmos, but the candle of hope flickers still.

In the evening, waiting for the charcoal to reach the perfect degree of orange and gray to cook the marinaded chicken, I drift into a Camp Fire Girl reverie:

Burn fire burn
Burn fire burn
Flicker flicker flicker flicker flame

My baby Weber is still six briquettes short of a flame-broiled whopper. Should I feed it tinder or kindling? Should I paint the heads of wooden matches with nail polish, and store them in a metal Band-Aid box? That was one of the survival skills I learned in Camp Fire Girls in the mid-1960s. So far, I've never needed a waterproofed match to survive, although I did fantasize once or twice about painting my spouse's head with nail polish and then stuffing him in a metal box.

I have a fondness for vintage metal boxes, Band-Aid and other. It's funny what sticks, and what doesn't. What sinews bind us to things and to people?

At one a.m. I fret. Did my son collect the Buick at the train station? To ward off worry I try to remember the girls in my Camp Fire Girl group so many years ago. The names sound so old-timey compared to my students' names:

Nancy, Nancy, Nancy, Prissy, Julie, Julie, Judy, Jody, Wendy, Wendy, Hilde, Debbie, Laurie, Donna, Janice, Dee-Dee, Linda, Susan, Margaret, Pam...

Margaret's mother taught us the "Burn Fire Burn" song:


(Adante moderato)
Burn, fire, burn! burn, fire, burn!
Burn, flicker, flame!
Whose hand above this blaze is lifted
Shall be with magic touch engifted,
To warm the hearts of lonely mortals
Who stand without their open portals.
The torch shall draw them to the fire,
Higher, higher, higher, By desire.
Who so shall stand by this hearthstone, flame-fanned,
Shall never stand alone;
Whose house is dark and bare and cold,
Whose house is dark and cold;
This is his own!
Flicker, flicker, flicker, flicker, flame!

Such tiny diversity within our group! One girl with a divorced mother, one girl living in an apartment, one Jewish girl, one Unitarian... Five daughters of engineers, two daughters of doctors plus one veterinarian, one daughter of a minister, at least five daughters of university professors. All of us save two walked home from school for lunch with our moms everyday, and then walked back for the afternoon class. When school dismissed at 3:15 we walked together to our Camp Fire meeting at one of our homes.

Camp Fire Girls worked their way up from Wood Gatherers to Fire Makers and Torch Bearers. The way was perilous, hidden under tinder and kindling, fraught with fagot-finders, and mired in the classic contest between wiggly loose front teeth and homemade popcorn balls.

WOOD GATHERER's DESIRE (1914) (spoken)

As fagots are brought from the forest
["Fagot" here means "a bundle of sticks tied together."]
Firmly held by the sinews which bind them,
So cleave to these others, your sisters,
Wherever, whenever you find them.
Be strong as the fagots are sturdy,
Be pure in your deepest desire;
Be true to the truth that is in you;
And--follow the Law of the Fire.

The five year olds are beginning to write stories. They choose a photo from the box of story starters, then make two to four sentences about the picture. Usually they write who is in the photo, what they are doing, and where. Sometimes they tell when, but rarely why. I keep trying to get them to spice up their stories.

Surprise me. Tell me something I don't already know. Tell me something exciting. Make me laugh. What did the flamingos play?


And no, the Woolly Mammoth did not use the Band-Aid to stick the key on the Buick. The Band-Aid wrapper was left on the car seat because he cut his finger while hiding the key.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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