We listened to the audio version of Little House on the Prairie on our way to spend a weekend in the wilderness. In it, Pa says, “There’s no great loss without some small gain.” That comment lodged in my mind, the way a statement will when I want to test it, prove whether or not it is really true.
I thank the Lord there was no “great loss” at the little cabin in the woods that sheltered us this weekend. It was a glorious respite, when fall weather blew in and lifted our heat-weary spirits. There were, however, some tiny setbacks, which seen in the proper light, brought their own gains.
When the feast was all set out—my extended family gathered around the picnic tables in anticipation—thunder blasted and raindrops sprinkled their soggy seasoning over our food. We grabbed all we could hold and dashed for the nearest cabin. There, we ate and talked in a cozy setting, too many people trapped inside too small a space. Eight-year-old boy sharing a chair with me, laughing uncle at the sink, sisters and nieces scattered about the floor playing a game . . . it all added up to contentment for this craver of time with the ones I love.
The next morning, my toddler awoke before dawn. Sleepily, I settled him down again. On my way back to bed, a faint glow at the window beckoned me. Sunrise! I pulled my coat on over my pajamas and slipped out the door. It was a hallowed morning, covered in a magical stillness enhanced by the hollow hooting of two owls. When the chill distracted me from the beauty, the cozy blankets on my bed welcomed me back underneath them. I savored the sensation of getting warm until my little one called for me again.
Later, on a hike, that little one stepped in an ant pile. He didn’t even whimper, but as I was brushing the ants off his jeans, I got stung. The slight discomfort was worth it when my little one said, “Aw,” and kissed my hand to make it better.
Something my eight-year-old ate made him sick. “Sing to me, Mama?” So, I sang, sunlight streaming through the blinds of that cabin. He’s growing so independent. In a few short years, will my songs be more of an annoyance to him than a comfort? He wanted me beside his bed, and I regaled him. Each time I paused, thinking he was asleep, he asked for more. I sang silly; I sang serious. I sang to him; I sang to God, and after a while I felt refreshed and somehow more complete. I hope my son felt a little better too.
We are home now, and I’m reminded of that little girl at the end of Toasting Marshmallows, by Kristine O’Connell George. Do I really have to wash this campfire-scented jacket? Hidden within its smoky smell is a bundle of sweet memories.