Sometimes Eugene’s world got awful noisy. There was the rattle of Clancey Sawyer’s milk wagon and Hector Moore’s ice truck over the rutty dirt road in front of his house. The clatter of Mr. Gunnerson’s old Model T. His Aunt Althea’s loud laughter and nonstop talking whenever she came to visit. (Eugene loved Aunt Althea, but she could outtalk any salesperson he’d ever heard!) And all the other noises the world had to offer in 1932.
His four brothers and two sisters could cause a lot of racket, too, especially when they all wanted to listen to different radio shows at the same time. Or when their friends came over to play and they fought over the stereoscope. If that wasn’t enough, sometimes Widow Willowby’s hound dog howled and barked all night. All that noise was enough to drive any kid up a tree.
And that’s just where Eugene’s favorite quiet place was—in a tree. Not just any tree, but the big old fig tree in the field, a little way behind Eugene’s house. His father and older brother, Vern, had built him a tree house in its strong, leafy branches. And just last week, his father slept with him in the tree house.
They played the imagination game before sleep overtook them, his father telling him that the fireflies that danced in the night reminded him of children’s prayers on their way to heaven. Eugene said that the moon and stars were holes in a big black curtain in God’s window. On the other side, God was staying up late with a big lamp on, sitting in a rocking chair and making a list of all his children who had problems. And that the creaking they heard was not the fig tree limbs in the stiff night breeze but the creaking of His rocker.
Just as Nephi and other prophets of old at times had gone high into the mountains to be alone in order to pray, Eugene liked to climb up into his quiet place in the big fig tree. Sometimes it was to think out his thoughts, sometimes to read his scriptures, sometimes to just relax, and sometimes to pray about things. …
Like the time Grandpa got real sick and had to go to the hospital. Everyone fasted and prayed for him, including Eugene. He climbed up into his quiet place and prayed for a whole hour.
Two weeks later, Eugene’s father lay in the tree house and cried. Eugene heard him because he was there, too. Everyone was happy because although the doctor had said that Grandpa was going to die, he got better. Eugene climbed up into the tree and lay close to his father. Neither of them spoke. At least not out loud. They were busy thanking Heavenly Father in their hearts, warm tears trickling down their faces.
After a while, Eugene asked his father why he had come to the tree instead of staying at the house with everyone else. “Everyone needs a quiet place where they can go to be alone sometimes. Even grown-ups. I don’t have one,” he said. “I was hoping you wouldn’t mind if I came up here for a few minutes.”
Eugene was happy that his father thought having a quiet place was important.
“Besides,” his father added with a wink, “with Aunt Althea at the house to greet your grandpa coming home from the hospital, it’s a bit noisy there. I needed a moment alone to thank the Lord for your granddad’s recovery.”
A few moments later, Eugene walked back to the house with his father. The back screen door whined as they joined the others. Eugene paused to look back over his shoulder at the old tree. It was like an old friend—warm, inviting, peaceful. And always there when he needed it. He smiled, went inside, gave Aunt Althea a big hug, then hurried over to Grandpa’s bed.
“Now, some things are best prayed about in private. … Praying alone … helps us open our hearts and be totally honest and honorable in expressing all of our hopes and attitudes. …
“The Savior at times found it necessary to slip away into the mountains or desert to pray. …
“We, too, ought to find, where possible, a room, a corner, a closet … where we can [pray] in secret. …”
President Spencer W. Kimball
(Ensign, October 1981, pages 3–6.)