It wasn’t a beautiful day, but then again it wasn’t dreadful either. A typical English summer day; a little overcast, a little drizzle, the mercury hovering around 18C.
We had been invited by friends to go camping with them and their kids, which we had accepted.
The kids were excited and if I am honest, so was I.
The reason for this is that I love being outside. And I love being outside with the kids.
Outside there are no walls, no perimeters and no parameters. The kids can run free in a field and I can relax for a few hours, knowing that they are safe.
Everything is better outside.
For me connecting with nature is so important, and there is no better way to connect than being outdoors on a camping trip.
The sights, sounds and smell of a campsite are part of the experience too.
The high pitched rip of a zip, the flap of canvas and the pungent smell of fresh grass, woodsmoke and freshly brewed coffee all combine into a heady mix.
And when you are camping everything ebbs and flows with the rise and fall of the sun. And at night, as the sun drifts below the horizon, the infinite expanse of the universe unfolds with celestial majesty, mind-bending in its vastness.
Just one night out in the elements and the mind can become untethered from the daily routine, released from the shackles of the flickering electric box in the corner of the living room and the piles of bills, letters and reminders that enslave us on a daily basis.
Camping is communal living, how humans would have co-existed many hundreds of years ago, before office blocks, air conditioning and artificial strip lighting. For me this is part of the allure; to get back to basics, however temporary.
And we are fortunate in that we have a phenomenal campsite nearby. There is something magical about this campsite, nestled in the shadow of a white horse, carved in chalk on a hillside dotted with lush and ancient deciduous woodland.
Once we had arrived and found our friends, the tent went up reasonably easily and the kids got to run around, liberated, urgent and red faced, constructing imaginary universes and populating them with imaginative abandon.
The drizzle stopped and the afternoon blended lazily into the evening. As the sun went down groups of people began to gather around freshly lit fires. With the kids so content, some of our group chanced an early drink.
The bedtime routine went well, and the adults in our group had, by now, started to sink into their chairs around the fire, faces lit and glowing amber as the flames licked and danced. Only one child remained awake, my daughter.
It wasn’t the kind of awake that was problematic though. There were no tears, no tantrums. It was a gentle kind of awake, driven by curiosity and an active mind.
After a few failed attempts to settle her into her camp bed, I decided to bring her around the camp fire. It was a risk. By now we were firmly into adult time, and the addition of a child may have been looked upon dimly by my peers.
But within a few minutes it became apparent that my daughter was content to sit quietly on my lap, settling into the hypnotic soundtrack of the night;
There were snatches of conversations from around the camp fire; I could hear a story being shared, an offer of more food, a bottle being opened.
And there was also the sound of a guitar and a soft but beautiful voice singing a quiet refrain.
The sound of a tent zip punctuated the air, and a lone blackbird piped melancholy from the tree tops.
I could hear a peel of laughter from across the field, a group bonding over a joke or story, and all of this was set to the gentle hiss and crackle of our fire fanned by the night breeze.
My daughter cuddled in tight, her curls falling on my lap, and at once I felt utterly content, at peace, my heart melting into the fire.
I realised she had probably never seen the night sky like this before, pitch dark and bottomless, so I asked her to look up at the stars. She lifted her head and fixed her wide eyes on the sparkling canvas above.
It took her a minute to take it all in, and then the questions started; magnificent questions driven by the young, pure and inquisitive mind of a three year old.
I don’t know how long we spoke for, but it was beautiful. A father and daughter huddled close amongst friends, cuddling under a vast night canopy and warmed by a fire, repeating a conversation that humans have been having through the millennia.
I sat with her, talking in whispered tones, long into the night, not even moving when she eventually fell asleep on my lap.
It was too perfect, magic, and I didn’t want to move, lest the spell be broken.
And my enduring memory from the night was of my daughters angelic eyes, facing skywards, reflecting the embers of the fire, desperate for knowledge, her mind beginning to tangle with some of life’s imponderables.
And for me it was a deep and profound connection with my little baby, a truly rare moment in the normally frantic rat race of everyday life.
Since that night I have realised that my daughter is growing up fast, and these moments will become less and less.
There will become a time when she will leave my side and stride out into the big wide world on her own. And when that does happen, she won’t know it, but my heart will go with her.
But for this one night, I was able to savour this moment, a primal bonding between father and daughter, a moment so precious and pure that it will stay with me until I die.
This was for me the moment of 2013.
A moment that mattered.
This post has been created for the lovely Mummy’s little Monkey and is part of a competition she is running on her site designed to get people writing about moments from 2013 that mattered to them. If you have read this post, or any of the other posts in the moments that matter series on her site, and feel inspired to contribute your own moment that mattered, then please do. You could even be in the running to win an iPad mini courtesy of those good people at Lloyds www.lloydsbank.com who are doing a sterling job in supporting the blogging community.