This weekend we enjoyed a backyard campfire with our children. We have a fire-pit and use it often. We roasted hot dogs and made s’mores and sat with our children on and near us as the sun set slowly. I love those nights. I love watching the fire rise and fall. I love having my children close by. I love eating and laughing and listening together.
As we all sat there, the temperatures cooled and the chatter fell away and we made a point of spending a few minutes being quiet and deeply aware of the world around us. A gentle, autumn breeze blew through and the tree frogs sang songs from limb to limb. The smell of herbs, ready for picking, rose from the nearby garden, and the cheerful chirp of many crickets filled the air.
In the momentary stillness, my mind was brought back to other times when the sound of crickets surrounded me.
I remember being little, maybe 6 or 7, and running through the yards at dusk, catching lightning bugs. I remember falling onto the grass in our small backyard, looking up at the stars and letting that familiar sound wash over my small self.
I remember working at a Christian camp the summer that I was 20. During a week of younger campers, I sat outside my cabin one night, with my best friend June, talking about how we each saw God. “I think,” June mused, “that God is someone you can sit back to back with outside Cabin J…” And as her voice trailed off, the crickets took over.
I remember the last August we spent as residence directors at Trinity Christian College. The student leaders had moved back onto campus and the freshmen were going to move in the next day. With the arrival of students, campus always took on a frenetic and full feeling. I remember sitting with colleagues in the lobby of my hall that final quiet night. The resident assistants were scattered all over campus praying for the students who were moving in soon. I remember hearing the crickets’ song flowing freely through the windows and finding myself acutely aware of the noise and busy-ness that would arrive in the morning with the students. I murmured aloud, ” This is the last night we will be able to hear that sound…”
And then there was this weekend, temperatures cooling, sleepy children seated close, Josiah’s sweet hand rises up touch my arm. Contented sighs. Full bellies. Enchanting flames. And that comforting, familiar chirp. We might miss it if we did not stop to hear.
Sometimes, one small thing can tie all the pieces of my life together in a nice, neat package. One scent, one sight, one sweet sound. Then, all the hardships that may have surrounded that same season momentarily fall away and I am left with something I choose to embrace. I wonder what will trigger these memories for my four children? What routines and traditions will bring unity to their life-long stories? The smell of Sunday dinner? The sound of a crackling fire? The feel of a soccer ball hitting their foot? The song of crickets on a cool summer night?
We have no control over what they remember or what will cause those memories to rise and fall in their minds. But, I know what I hope for my kids… I hope that they know what it feels like to be loved. I hope that they know what it means to have parents who choose to be present with them. I hope that when they are grown, a rush of warm memories flow easily back to them in watching a fire rise and fall, feeling the cool breeze brush their faces… and listening to the crickets sing them a song.