“Oooooh! What is it?” squealed seven-year-old Kristi as she poked gingerly with a stick at the shiny brown insect on the sidewalk. Suddenly it jumped, and Kristi stumbled backward in surprise.
“Why, Kristi,” Mother said good-naturedly as she turned from the flower bed. “Haven’t you seen a cricket before?”
“A cricket!” cried Kristi. “We learned about crickets in Primary. They were eating the pioneers’ crops, so the pioneers prayed, and Heavenly Father sent seagulls to eat the crickets. I just didn’t know what a real one looked like.”
Mother smiled as she sat on the cool grass and brushed the soil from her hands. “If you’ll come sit here by me, Kristi, I’ll tell you something about a special cricket.”
“Are you going to tell me a story?” Kristi asked happily.
“Yes. It’s a story about a little girl named Ida, who was very, very sick. In fact, she was so sick that her parents were afraid that she might die.”
“Didn’t they take her to the doctor?” asked Kristi.
“Well,” continued Mother, “this story happened a long time ago, before penicillin was discovered, so although the doctor tried to help Ida, he wasn’t certain that she would get well.
“For many days Ida stayed in her bed. She didn’t feel like eating, even though her mother coaxed her, and she became very weak. When she slept, she tossed and turned and cried out in her sleep. Then, little by little, she began to improve.
“When her strength began to return, it wasn’t easy for Ida to be patient. She wanted to be completely well immediately. The sounds and fragrances of summer came drifting through the open window. Bees droned around the snapdragons, birds chirped, and the scent of blossoms filled the air. Peals of laughter echoed across the lawn as Ida’s older brothers and sisters scrambled to fill Mother’s big blue bowl with sweet cherries from the orchard. How Ida longed to be with them, climbing the leafy branches and plucking the juicy red fruit.
“‘Perhaps in a few days you will be well enough to sit on the porch,’ her mother had said. But ‘a few days’ seemed like forever to Ida.
“Creak-bang! went the screen door downstairs as Ida’s father returned, tired and dusty from his work in the fields. Ida could hear the sound of dishes clinking in the kitchen and the soft wails of Baby Beth, tired and cross from the heat.
“‘Poor Baby Beth,’ Ida sympathized. It seemed like such a long time since Ida had played with her brothers and sisters. She missed them all, especially Baby Beth. But because her illness was contagious, the other children were not allowed to come into Ida’s room. Because it was summertime, her father spent nearly every day working in the fields. And with cherries to preserve, a hungry family to feed, and little Beth to look after, it was difficult for Ida’s mother to find time to just visit with her. For Ida, the hardest part of being sick was the loneliness.
“‘Are you asleep?’ her mother asked one day, setting a cup and bowl down on the little table next to Ida’s bed.
“‘No,’ Ida replied with a frown. ‘I was just thinking.’
“‘I was thinking about how summer evenings seem so long.’ Ida paused. ‘Mama, will it be long before I’m well again? Will there still be cherries on the tree?’ Ida peered anxiously at her mother’s tired face.
“‘It seems awfully long to you, doesn’t it?’ Her mother smiled sympathetically. ‘Try to be patient.’ She blew Ida a kiss as she turned to leave.
“Ida listened to her mother’s footsteps on the stairs, then folded her arms and closed her eyes.
“‘Dear Heavenly Father,’ she whispered, ‘I thank Thee for this food. Help me to eat it so that I can get better soon. And please help me to not feel lonely tonight.’
“After dinner, Ida closed her eyes again. The sun had nearly set. If only I could sleep, she thought. But it was no use. Her eyes just simply would not stay shut. The corners of the room were beginning to get dark, and Ida heard the sound of a lullaby floating up the stairs, accompanied by the clickety-whirr of her mother’s treadle sewing machine.
“Ida felt a wave of loneliness sweep over her. She wanted to run downstairs and tuck Baby Beth into bed or watch her mother sew or just sit on her big brother’s lap. She tried not to cry, but a big salty tear slipped from her eye and rolled down her nose. And that is when she saw it: Poised on the windowsill, ebony-black against the twilight, was a cricket. It sat silent and motionless for a moment, then burst into a chirping song.
“‘What a strange sound!’ Ida exclaimed. She caught her breath as the cricket hopped up in the air and landed again on the windowsill. Ida watched, entranced, as the cricket leaped and chirred in the fading light until, at last, her room was enfolded in darkness and she was fast asleep.
“In the morning the cricket was gone. But when twilight came, it returned to the windowsill to sing and dance until Ida fell asleep. After that the cricket came every night to sing Ida to sleep.
“One day Ida was finally well enough to leave her bed and go downstairs to sit on the porch. That night the cricket didn’t come. It never came again. But always after that, whenever Ida heard the song of a cricket in the twilight, she remembered ‘her’ cricket and felt again the assurance that there is a loving Father in Heaven who answers the prayers of His children.”
“Oh, Mother, did that really happen?” asked Kristi.
“Yes,” Mother answered. “That little girl was your grandma.”
“My very own grandma,” Kristi sighed. She was thoughtful for a moment, then said, “It’s funny, isn’t it? Heavenly Father answered the pioneers’ prayers by taking the crickets away, but He answered Grandma’s prayer by sending her a cricket. Oh, Mother,”—Kristi suddenly sat up straight—“I’m glad the seagulls didn’t eat all the crickets!”
“I am too,” Mother agreed, gathering Kristi into her arms. “Very glad indeed.”