Along the beaches of the OC assorted chunks of wood are piled into a concrete ring on a beach and set alight. Friends or family or church groups or drum circles gather to roast wienies and marshmallows and choke on smoke. It is a grand tradition. And it may well be going away.
This has not been an easy summer for my family. We thought we were going to have to move, and much it was consumed in looking at houses, packing, and fear. As the back-to-school sales geared up and we found out we didn't have to move, we realized that we had not had a single beach day. (Okay, that's not true. There was a birthday party for a friends daughter early in the summer. I was too cold to think about it as much as I am now.) So we did what is done, and created a Facebook event, invited everyone we knew and planned a day at the beach.
Only a few beaches have the fire rings. People who live near these beaches don't like the noise and the smoke. Word is that this is the last year that Corona Del Mar and Newport beach will have them. Huntington Beach says they will not give them up. Yeah, Huntington Beach, you know, where they had that riot after a surf competition earlier this year?
Even at Corona Del Mar, where we went, the rules have changed. You used to be able to set up a small grill in the pit to cook some food before you had your fire. Not anymore. We found that out the hard way of having the beach cops tell us we had to put it in the car. Now.
But we made do. People came, though not nearly as many as we had thought. It was fun, but....
Someone has to get there early, usually before noon, or the rings are all staked out. Then there is dragging coolers and beach toys and chairs and shade and setting everything up. There is taking turns going to the water and the bathroom, so the pit is never left unguarded. It makes it a long day for an old grandma, before we even get to the bonfire part.
This time I loved how we all gather along the sea wall to watch those final minutes of the sun slipping behind the boats and rocks. It made me happy in my heart when so many of us decided to wave bye bye.
But this wasn't my bonfire. This wasn't a church group, like when my boys were teens and we sang worship songs around the fire. And yes I had a few friends to chat with, but I really wanted someone to cuddle with or sing with. There were more of the young adults, friends of my kids, that showed up after dark and took great delight in incinerating marshmallows. By the end of the evening I felt invisible. I feel that way more and more these days.
I don't know that I will ever go to a beach bonfire again. I won't so never, just that I don't know. The two days of weariness and sore muscles (so far) do not seem worth the price for a tradition that is no longer mine. I'm thankful for those years past, thankful that my kids were baptized in the ocean, thankful that my daughter sat on the beach and looked at a friend and began to realize that he was more. And I'm sorry for all the bonfires that will never be once the rings are gone. I will always love going down to the where the land and ocean crash together, I just don't think I'll be going in such big chunks of time ever again.