Participatory Journalism:
Remember, I Have Warned You

by Thomas J. Griffiths

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    It was Friday when we three boys who had been chums for many years made our plans—three sun-touched boys with an itch for one last outing before cold weather set in.

    There was Eddie Simkins, with the mop of curly hair, and Scrummy Chislet. (I never did find out why he was called Scrummy.)

    So we three 12-year-olds formulated our adventuresome plans. That afternoon after school we would head for the valley and spend the night.

    When our school studies were over I dashed home and spoke to my mother. She was sewing in the living room, and from her little radio came sounds of the music she loved.

    “Mam” I said excitedly, “Eddie, Scrummy, and I are going up the valley to spend the night. I would like some bedding and a little food. We are going to have such a good time.”

    Mam looked up from her sewing. “Son,” she said, “I just heard on the radio there is a chance of thunderstorms in the hills and the possibility of flash floods.”

    There is something about a mother’s look when it concerns the welfare of her children that is hard for a 12-year-old boy to understand. “Mam,” I said, with the know-how of a boy. “You can’t believe all that stuff you hear on the radio.”

    I took her by the hand and led her over to the big bay window. “Look Mam. There isn’t a cloud in the sky.” And I argued like only a boy can.

    She turned to me and said, “All right, if you insist on going, but remember when the storm comes that I warned you.”

    I rolled up an old quilt and a blanket and tied them with a piece of string. Mam made me some sandwiches of homemade bread and blackberry jam, from berries I had picked myself. These she wrapped in a sheet of newspaper and put them in a brown paper bag.

    She stood on the doorstep as I left, and again that look was on her face. Later I knew what it was, an unspoken prayer.

    The three of us met where the street ended and the valley began. Our destination was an old woodcutter’s cabin about four miles up the valley. What a day! The birds were singing, and up on the hill a patch of gorse was in bloom, giving a bit of gold to the world. Under the hedgerows the last of the violets were peeking. The sun was warm, and a tiny breeze rustled the dying leaves on the trees.

    We laughed and joked as we hiked along, not a care in the world.

    We were about two miles from the cabin when suddenly there was a change in the weather. The birds’ song was stilled, and a heaviness filled the air. Over the top of a distant hill we saw the tip of a black cloud. It grew as we hurried our footsteps.

    Soon the cloud filled the sky, and the thunder and the lightning came. The rain started with a few drops at first. Then it became a deluge. By the time we reached the cabin we were soaked to the skin. To add to our discomfort, the roof of the cabin had caved in during the winter months and only a small corner offered any shelter.

    The cabin was erected on a bank above the brook, the brook I loved so well. Its music was a pleasant melody like a lullaby at night. But now as we huddled in that corner the voice of the brook became loud and threatening, and we could hear stones rolling down its bed.

    The thunder reverberated through the trees, and once we heard the lightning strike a big beech tree not far away. We were three frightened boys.

    We tried to light a fire in the fireplace, but due to the wet wood we only succeeded in making smoke, and I must confess all the tears in my eyes were not caused by the smoke.

    During the night we sat huddled together in the corner, but the wind blew the rain in on us. The pangs of hunger came, and I unwrapped the sodden covering around my sandwiches. The bread was sop so I scooped out the jam with my fingers and ate it.

    Few words were spoken during the night, but over and over in my mind came Mam’s words to me, “Remember when the storm comes that I have warned you.”

    With the coming of the dawn the storm ended, and we gathered up our rain-soaked bedding and started for home.

    About a mile down the trail we met our fathers, who had come looking for us. My father took my bedroll and put his arm around my shoulder. His words were simple and sincere. “I am glad you are safe.” Mam was waiting at the door. The look was the same except for the moisture in her eyes.

    She had prepared breakfast. There was hot oatmeal porridge with cream from the top of the milk bottle and toast made on top of the coal range.

    There was no “I told you so,” only a request: “You must lie down awhile, my son, and rest.”

    Through the years I have learned what that look is that mothers get. It is the look of the good shepherd who cares for his flock.

    I have also learned the similarity of my mother’s warning to those of our Heavenly Father. I can imagine him saying, “Remember when the storms come and nations tremble and there is desolation on the earth, that I have warned you.”

    Illustrated by Scott Snow