Larry trudged home from school and tried to imagine how the family cabin must look buried beneath the snow. School was out for Christmas vacation, and he and his family were going to the mountains for the holidays. He couldn’t wait to go sleigh riding with them on the hill near their cabin.
As Larry turned the corner, he could see his dad and his brother, Jonathan, already packing the car.
“You’re just in time to help carry out the heavy stuff,” Dad called to him.
Soon they were packed and on their way. The little dirt road that led from the highway to their cabin was covered with snow, and Larry and Jonathan had to help clear the way with snow shovels. It seemed like forever before they finally reached the cabin.
Larry gazed fondly at the cabin. It was a beautiful sight with the snow piled high everywhere. Now Larry realized why he and his father had worked so hard strengthening the ceiling beams inside and patching the roof outside last summer. It would never have held all this snow if they hadn’t.
Everyone, even Julia and little April, helped take the things in from the car, and Dad made a fire in the fireplace. They heated the stew and rolls Mother had made before they left home, and ate their meal in front of the warm, crackling fire.
“Tomorrow we’ll go to the meadow and cut down a Christmas tree,” Dad announced.
“Yippee!” whooped four young voices.
“But now we’d better get a good night’s sleep,” Mom said with a yawn.
Larry woke up early and looked out the small attic window. The trees sparkled with silver ice crystals. Everything was still and quiet outside. Inside, everyone was bustling around, trying to keep warm while Dad stoked the fire. The morning was spent in decorating the cabin and making tree ornaments. In the afternoon Dad and the four children set out to find a perfect Christmas tree. The sled left deep tracks in the snow as they took turns pulling each other to the meadow.
“Sky’s clouding up,” Dad said. “We’d better hurry and find the tree we want.”
A tree was finally chosen, and while Dad chopped it down, the children made a snowman. They hardly noticed that snow had started falling.
“Let’s get moving,” urged Dad as he piled the tree onto the sled. The children came running, eager to get the tree to the cabin.
“Where’s April?” Dad asked.
“I don’t know,” replied Julia. “She was here with me just a minute ago.”
Dad called, but there was no answer. The snow was falling faster.
“You three pull the tree back to the cabin. Just follow the tracks we made coming.”
“I know the way back,” said Larry. “We’ll be OK.”
Dad walked in the opposite direction, calling for little April. Her tracks were quickly being covered by the falling snow, and the sun was starting to go down beyond the mountain.
Larry and Jonathan took turns pulling the sled, and Julia pushed from the back when they went up the hill. At the top they could barely see the lights of the cabin through the blowing snow, which had become a blizzard. When they reached the cabin, Mother opened the door.
“I thought you’d never get here. I have some hot chocolate with marshmallows ready for you.” Then Mother sensed something was wrong. “What’s the matter? Where are your father and April?” she asked.
Julia spoke first. “April’s lost, Mom. Dad’s out looking for her.”
Mother turned and sat down in the rocker by the hearth. In the light of the fire her face looked pale.
It was Larry who broke the silence. “I’m going back to the meadow, Mom.”
“No, Larry. We don’t want anybody else lost in the storm.”
“I have to go, Mom. Dad might need some help. I can’t sit here and do nothing.”
Mom looked into Larry’s eyes, and instead of her little boy, she saw a young man who would soon receive the priesthood. “All right, Larry. But drink a cup of hot chocolate and get warm before you go out again.”
As Larry stood drinking the hot chocolate by the fire, he glanced at his somber brother and sister. He set his cup down, and after putting two blankets into a plastic bag, he bundled up, put some matches from the cupboard into his pocket, and said good-bye.
Outside, he took the tree off the sled, placed the blankets on it, and piled on some dry wood from the shed. He gathered some chips of wood and some small twigs that were stored by the woodpile and put them into his jacket pockets. He covered the wood with a piece of plastic from the shed and began to pull the sled toward the hill.
In the cabin everyone sat staring at the fire.
“I want to do something, too,” Jonathan said.
Julia looked at her mom and nodded her head in agreement.
“There is something we can all do,” said Mother, kneeling by her chair. Julia and Jonathan knelt beside her.
Out in the meadow Dad called and called, but the howling wind outshouted him, threw snow into his face, and obliterated those tracks that had been faintly visible in the fading light. Suddenly something inside of him told him to stand still and listen. This is silly, he thought as he stood still. But the impression wouldn’t leave him, and during a brief lull in the raging blizzard he heard a soft, whimpering sound. Following the sound just a few yards, he came upon a little mound half-buried in the snow.
“April!” he cried.
Two little eyes peeked out from under a snow-covered hood. Dad grabbed her and quickly brushed the snow from her jacket. He unzipped his parka, pressed her against the warmth of his own body, then began immediately to retrace his own tracks before they, too, were covered by the snow.
Meanwhile, when Larry reached the meadow, he pulled the sled over by the snowman. He hoped that the snowman would help block the wind while he tried to make a fire. But the wind kept changing directions. By using the snowman and his own body as shields against the wind, however, he was able to get some of the chips and twigs to light.
Almost immediately a gust of wind blew the little fire out! Larry took the remaining wood off the sled and wrapped the plastic around it. Then he took the sled and tipped it sideways. It helped to block the wind a little, and he was finally able to get the kindling burning enough to catch onto the larger wood. Soon he had a good fire going, its light a beacon in the meadow. Larry sat on the sled by the fire and waited.
Dad’s arms were getting weary, and it was almost impossible to see any tracks now. After a while the blizzard slowed down, and he came across a few tracks in a sheltered place. His excitement turned to despair when he realized that the tracks were fresh! They were his own tracks. He had been walking in a circle!
Dad sank to the ground and began to pray harder than he had ever prayed before. When he stood up again, he looked around carefully in each direction. There, off to his right, was a faint glow. He began to walk toward it, never taking his eyes off it. He couldn’t figure out where the light was coming from. He was sure it couldn’t be the cabin, but he moved gratefully toward it as fast as he could. He reached a clearing and saw the meadow. And there by the snowman was the best fire he had ever seen!
“Hey!” he yelled.
“Dad! Is that you?” Larry called. He ran to his father and threw his arms around him. Together they stood for a moment, shedding tears of joy.
They removed April’s jacket and wrapped her in one of the blankets warmed by the fire and sat her on the sled by the blaze. Dad took off his coat and wrapped up in the other blanket and rested near the fire too.
When they had warmed up a bit, and Dad and April had their parkas on again, he and Larry doused the fire, put April onto the sled, and walked side by side, pulling the sled between them. As they neared the cabin, they saw three worried faces peering through the window.
“There they are! I see them coming!” yelled Jonathan. The cabin door flew open. There were squeals of joy and tears of gratitude as everyone hugged everyone else. Soon they were sipping hot chocolate around the fireplace.
“Dad, you saved April’s life,” said Julia.
“I tried, Julia, I found April, but we were both saved by Larry. It was the light from his fire that saved us.”
“And I know someone else who helped, too,” said Mother.
“Yes,” said Dad. “And I think it’s time to thank Him.”