I measure summer in s’mores. This is a curious proclamation considering I must have lived out at least 18 summers before I even sampled my first one. I spent the earliest of my formative years in Arizona, where you would have been drawn and quartered by the citizenry if you’d suggested sitting in front of a fire in the summer months.
We spent the dog days of summer sitting in front of the frozen foods section of an air-conditioned grocery store, our bellies pressed against the frosty glass. Only after the manager would nudge us along would we then default to the only other thing Arizona kids do all summer: Watch daytime TV from a tile floor and moan about the heat.
It’s possible that I roasted s’mores during the years I spent in the Ozarks, but those memories have been blotted out by the more pungent ones of roasting squirrel meat. Seeing a bucket full of skinned squirrel bodies has a way of doing that to a person. Certainly no one made s’mores during my stint in New York City, because only two out of 10 of my friends would have had a balcony from which we could have positioned an illegal grill, but none of us would have known how to turn it on.
Maine has been the true birth place, the genesis, of my love for s’mores. The instant the solstice crept in, my family would gather outside, encircling the fire pit, our twitching silhouettes lit up like a band of aboriginal people jumping and stomping to their Gods. When we hosted a French teenager over the course of two summers, we introduced her to s’mores much like the Indians started the North American fur trade.
“Take these spoils and bring them back to your country,” we winked as we handed her simple carbohydrates set ablaze. S’mores proved more addictive than beaver pelts, and I spied a bag of marshmallows and graham crackers, two non-native products to France, tucked into her suitcase when she left.
My children have inherited the taste for the burnt stuff, and it becomes their greatest summertime lament that we don’t have a fire pit. Much the way the kids in Arizona who didn’t have pools would whine about the great injustice of their neighbors having them, the children of single mothers decry their lack of fire pits. I don’t possess that anthropological man vs. fire impulse in my genetic coding that their father did. I think of all the times a tea towel went alight through a mishap with the stove, and that stops me short of intentionally setting fire to a patch of my lawn. So we do what any s’mores-starved family does: We buy all the ingredients and invite ourselves over to other’s homes to make them. Once there, we dazzle them with our s’mores making instincts until they follow suit.
Step 1: Find a stick that would be better used for walking the Appalachian Trail or clubbing bears.
Step 2: Fight with each other over whose stick will hold the most marshmallows.
Step 3: Rip open a bag of marshmallows with such force that they all rain down into the fire pit.
Step 4: Open another bag of marshmallows with a scissor.
Step 5: Find sticks again because the first round went into the fire or the lake.
Step 6: Yell, “where are the chocolate bars?”
Step 7: Locate chocolate bars. And the toddler you also couldn’t find.
Step 8: Open chocolate bar while the stick holding 27 marshmallows is between your knees until it, too, falls into fire.
Step 9: Threaten everyone with baptism by fire. Literally.
Step 10: Create a foul-proof assembly line of parents (and the one teenager who is Vegan-Gluten-Free-Paleo-Raw) to dole out each ingredient to the roasters.
Step 11: Open your mouth to bite into your hard-earned s’more.
Step 12: (For the kids): Drop your s’more into the dirt and scream that it’s inedible.
Step 13: Hand over your s’more to the screaming child.
Step 14: Slam your hand against the squadron of mosquitos on your neck.
Step 15: Say that you can’t wait to do this again in a couple of days, but not at your house because you don’t have a fire pit.