My dad had said that we could go away for the weekend—just him and me. We were going to camp up at Muskrat Bridge Park. Then Dad lost his job.
He had worked for Mr. Stapley at the warehouse on Fulmer Street, but it burned down last month. All the money that Dad had been saving went for my little sister, Elizabeth. She was born the day after the fire. Mom had had to go to the hospital two weeks before Elizabeth was born, because of complications. Then our car broke down, and we couldn’t afford to get it fixed right away. Mom is better now, though, and Elizabeth is just fine.
We had a family council and talked about us not having enough money and about Dad’s not having found another job yet. Dad said that the Church was going to help us with food for a while. Then he stopped talking, and his eyes got all watery. That had happened before, when he bore his testimony one fast Sunday.
I went and got the money that I’d been saving to buy a hamster and gave it to Dad. It wasn’t very much—one dollar and seventy-six cents—but it was all that I had. I told him that I wanted to help.
Dad didn’t say anything. He just pulled me close to him and held me longer than I could ever remember. I think that he was crying again, because my cheek felt wet.
After supper that night Dad asked me if I wanted to sleep out in our backyard. It’s a lot smaller than any campground at Muskrat Bridge Park, but the sky looked just as big in the yard as it did there. And there weren’t any more stars there than there were right here, only these weren’t quite as bright.
We lay in our sleeping bags and looked at the sky. We saw a shooting star. It seemed to go by about as fast as summer did. And that was too fast.
We talked, too, about lots of things. Like Grandma Chaboude’s laughing spells. One time she laughed so long and hard that she cried more tears than most people do when somebody they love dies. We talked about how far dandelions can fly. We wondered aloud about the dent in the blade of the old cavalry sword that was handed down to Dad from his Great-Great-Great-Uncle Wakefield. Had the dent been made during a battle in the War Between the States?
Most of all we talked about something else that was on my mind. I told Dad that I had been praying all week for something to happen so that we could still go to Muskrat Bridge Park. But nothing had happened. And looking up into the night sky and seeing how really big space was and how really small I was, I started thinking that maybe I was too little for God to bother with.
Dad turned his head toward me, his lips turning up into a smile as high as the points of the skinny moon. “God hears everyone’s prayers, Nathan,” he said. “And that includes children’s. Maybe especially children’s. And when a person prays with all his heart, he receives answers.”
“But I didn’t get an answer!”
Dad took a small crawly thing off my pillow and put it on the lawn. I think that maybe he was giving me time to think. I looked over at Dad, and he was staring up at the stars, looking harder at them than I’d ever seen him look at anything before. His eyes were shiny, like the leaves on our cherry tree on frosty mornings. Then he looked at me in a gentle way. “You are a child of God,” he said softly. “That means that you are very special. Heavenly Father loves you even more than I do—and I love you with all my heart and soul.
“The Lord created this whole world for you,” he continued. “Our Elder Brother Jesus gave His life for you—and for all of us. So don’t ever think that you are too small for God to bother with. Heavenly Father is happy when you’re happy. And so am I.”
Now that I think about it, I guess that it isn’t important where Dad and I spend time together. In fact, I’m glad that we camped out in our backyard. I liked it just as much as I would have at Muskrat Bridge Park. Maybe even more—because we talked about some pretty important stuff that night that we might not have discussed at the park because things would have been different. I would have gotten a “yes” answer to my prayer and not wondered about things. But as it was, we had spent a special night together. Just me, my dad, and the stars.