I’ll never forget our family reunion the summer I turned eight. It was at the sawmill site on our mountain homestead. Our family is a big one, with lots of uncles and aunts and big and little cousins—especially Lucinda. She’s just my age. Our birthdays are both in July.
The ranch has a meadow, a creek, a pollywog pond with a zillion frogs, ponderosa pines, and lots of things to do and places to play. Lucinda and I made little fences and houses out of pinecones and wildflowers, and our people and animals were pretty rocks and twigs.
The reunion was two days and nights of fun. The first night, when the canyon breeze whispered through the pine trees, Papa lit a campfire that felt good. Everyone brought folding chairs and circled the fire. The sun was setting in a sky of pink and gold. Uncle Jake strummed his guitar and began to sing, “Just a Song at Twilight,” and Papa and Mama and all of my uncles and aunts joined in. I felt like heaven itself had come to our reunion. Nothing could have been prettier. Stories and songs filled the evening. We sang songs like “You Are My Sunshine” and “Red Wing,” and we giggled while we sang “Plant a Watermelon on My Grave and Let the Juice Soak Through.”
The second night, after our marshmallow roast and singing, Aunt Venice told us about the time the Savior came to America and blessed the children. When Lucinda and I snuggled into our beds, we lay looking at the stars while we talked about the angels that had come down among the children.
The next morning after breakfast, we cleaned up camp and packed to go home. We were sad to leave. I wished we could have stayed forever. Lucinda and I walked out into the meadow while the cars were being loaded. The penstemons were blooming tall and pinkish white. In one of their snapdragon-like blossoms was the shining black rear of a big bumblebee.
“Hey, look, Lucinda,” I cried.
The blossom’s lips were pursed snugly around that fat bee. I tapped the stem to see if he would back up, but he didn’t. So I tapped harder. “He likes it so much he won’t come out,” I said.
“He’s so full of honey, he’s taking a nap,” Lucinda remarked.
Papa honked the car horn and shouted, “All aboard.”
“Are you riding with us?” Lucinda asked.
“Thanks,” I answered, “but I think I’ll go home with my family. I want to show Robbie my bumblebee. He’ll love it.”
Car horns honked again and Lucinda ran. I picked my bee-flower and started to run, then tripped on a morning-glory runner. I lost my bee in the tall grass and couldn’t find him. Cars were leaving, and some of them had already crossed the creek. By the time I got back to camp, the last car was pulling out. It was my family. I yelled, “Hey, wait for me!” but they went right on. I knew my parents would think I was with Lucinda, because that was the way I had come.
I ran as fast as I could, but it was no use. No one looked back. The cars crawled in a dusty caravan over the bumpy road and vanished around the bend. And there I was. Alone.
The only thing I could think of was to keep running. Maybe someone would have to stop. I ran until my lungs burned. I stopped at the gate, which was wired shut. I’d have to climb over it. I remembered a nearby mountain road where someone would see me and take me home.
As I reached for the bars to pull myself up onto the gate, a warning thought came into my head. Firmly it said, Don’t go out that gate.
I stepped down. “The only way to get home is to climb that gate,” I said to myself, so I put my foot on the bottom bar. This time the thought shouted, Don’t go out that gate!
I was already panting from running so hard, and now I was shaking. I leaned against a tree to think. Home was seventeen miles down the mountain. The road was twisty and steep. Papa called it a slow road. It would be a long time before the folks got home and discovered I was missing, and then a longer time before they could get back to find me. If I could get out onto the road to catch a ride, I might get home before they missed me.
Then I remembered my parents warning us all to never get into a car with a stranger. Something terrible might happen. My heart was pounding and a sob stuck in my throat, but I was determined not to cry. I knew I wasn’t alone, because of the warnings that kept me from climbing over the gate.
I could hear the trickle of the nearby creek. I sat on its bank and watched the water splash over the rocks. My thoughts went back to last night’s get-together around the campfire and Aunt Venice’s story. The sweetness of her telling about how Jesus came to America after the Resurrection comforted me. How wonderful it was when He kneeled in the midst of the little children. I felt His love as He blessed each one of them. How beautiful it must have been with all of the people looking up and seeing heaven open and angels descending in the midst of fire and encircling the little ones.
I’m one of the little ones, I thought. It seemed like those very angels were with me. A song filled my heart. I found myself softly singing, “I think when I read that sweet story of old, When Jesus was here among men, How he called little children like lambs to his fold; I should like to have been with him then.”*
“Thanks, Heavenly Father,” I whispered. “It’s good to know that I’m not alone.”
With time on my hands, I enjoyed the wildflowers and the bluejays, the woodpeckers and the squirrels, the chipmunks and the wrens. Finally I got sleepy. I gathered armfuls of bracken ferns and stacked them for a pillow on the shady tabletop of a huge tree stump that had been timbered off years ago, and curled up for a nap.
I slept so soundly that I didn’t hear anyone coming through the gate. Mama’s kiss and her tears on my cheek awoke me. Opening my eyes, I saw her and Papa bending over me. The bursting happiness that was mine can never, never be forgotten. I wanted to shout to all the world the goodness of our Savior and Heavenly Father, and the preciousness of families.