Friendships born of shared experiences can ebb and flow, but they often last a lifetime. Formed and nurtured around the campfire; refreshed as growing families; and shared in musings and memories under starlit skies behind a tractor on an old hay wagon; they live on and warm the heart. And it was all because our parents thought it might be fun to get several families together for a weekend at the beach when they themselves were just in their early thirties. Yes, Mom and Dad, the First Generation, did it!
They introduced us to other kids who would become lifelong friends. It was more than fifty years ago. I was twelve years old. Our Mom and Dad took us camping with a group of their friends, and their children, we the kids, first met each other as a group on the shores of Lake Michigan. We shared playtime and swimming at the beach. We shared meals in camp. We shared stories around the campfire. And we looked forward to the next year, and then the next, and the year after. Over the years we walked the sand dunes, climbed and jumped out of trees, floated for hours out on the still waters, built sand castles, toasted marshmallows, and built relationships. Each year, for a few days, we grew, together.
We graduated, moved away, started families of our own, built new relationships, and let the old ones lie fallow for years. Then the letter, “Hey, thought it would be fun to get together with the Second Generation at the lake. Wanna come? You bet!” And the new cycle started. Maybe our kids would connect, maybe they wouldn’t. But we did.
We refreshed those friendships, shared stories, rode the dunes in an old twelve seat dune buggy, played games with the kids, and gathered over fifty family members around a roaring campfire. And again we looked forward to the next year, and then the next, and the year after. One year we partied on the lakeshore while, lo and behold, the First Generation drifted by on the deck boat! They had sneaked back and crashed the party; a complete surprise, a bunch of sixty-somethings out for a cruise and playing their own joke on us, themselves a group of friends for more than thirty years.
And we drifted apart again as life intruded once more. Our children grew up and had families of their own. We began winding down careers, caring for our own parents, assuming the role of grandparents, planning our later years, and spending more time with and helping to raise the youngest members of our families. We learned Facebook, Skype, email, and texting, and a few of us stayed connected through technology. Then the Facebook post, “My family…are thinking of having a campfire in the woods for Our Generation at my place…”, and I had to be there.
Last night as we shared a meal and our life stories around that campfire, and spotted a few shooting stars, and rode behind that tractor, I wondered about all those intervening years, all of the myriad details of our lives that we’d never know, what was, and what might have been had we stayed more connected. And I appreciated that what we had was good, a friendship that spanned more than fifty years, a friendship that survived three generations, a friendship that was comfortable and warm, like old jeans and a fleece sweatshirt against the late evening chill. Leaving hugs and thanks behind, I asserted that we ought not to let life get in the way of staying connected. I intend to make sure that we don’t.
As we drove into the night I thought about what makes me happy in life and was reminded that faith, family and friends are the essential elements of my happiness. Under the glory of an unfathomable night sky around a fire with closest family and friends, I found myself living the happiness I crave. And I have my Savior, that first generation, my friends and my family to thank.
Enjoying the blessing of happiness today…Pops