This Little Light

The just-before-peak fall aspens surround us this September morning at our campsite in our Colorado mountains. A light wind makes the aspens shimmer and dance in the sunlight, creating a sound like none other. Their vibrant burst of yellow against a mountain of evergreens takes me back to my childhood, when our family of five camped in these same mountains five decades ago.

Those camping trips with Mama and Daddy and my two older sisters are some of my sweetest childhood memories. Daddy would wake up a different daughter early each morning at 4 a.m. to take us fishing because that’s when the rainbow trout were the hungriest. Daddy always caught the maximum number of fish allowed, bringing back enough trout for Mama to grill for breakfast, and often for lunch and dinner, too.

One year while we were camping all three of us girls came down with the measles and fevers, which had to be super fun for our parents. Another year in the middle of the night a bear, standing on his hind legs, banged on our small camper door while Daddy stood on the other side of the door boldly yelling at the animal in a deep and fearless voice. I think that’s the only time in my life I knew Daddy was scared.

One of my most vivid memories camping was when I was just eight years old in 1968, and I had a new “Big Chief” writing tablet that Mama bought me for the trip. She knew I loved to write stories and draw pictures to illustrate them. Often while my sisters were out exploring old mine shafts or having other adventures in the mountains, I’d stay close to Mama at our campsite, sitting at the picnic table, writing stories about children having adventures in the mountains.

Years later when I was living on the other side of the country and Mama knew her memories were fading from Alzheimer’s, she sent me a box of my childhood treasures she’d found in their attic. At the bottom of that box I found that old writing tablet—which I still have to this day—and it sparked a fresh love of writing for me that had long been put aside.

I love that my man, Rick, is grilling bacon and poblano peppers for our breakfast with cheesy eggs as I type this on my MacBook Pro—a writing tablet a lot different than the one I used fifty years ago. Just now the wind has picked up and its roar through the forest sounds a lot like ocean waves crashing. These mountains really do cry out God’s majesty and close presence.

Last night as we sat by our campfire, Rick brought out an old Coleman lantern that my dad gave him when we first got married. It’s the same lantern Daddy would bring on our childhood camping trips. Rick hung the lantern on a tree branch a bit down the hill from the campfire. While gazing at that lantern, I found healing tears in my eyes as I knew it was a poignant symbol of my father’s legacy. Gone just ten months now, my dad’s presence was always a bright light over us. He seemed especially close last night as memories of daddy-daughter fishing trips, growling at bears, grilled rainbow trout, and the sound of dancing aspens flooded my heart.

What about you? I’d love to hear about your favorite childhood memory, especially if God has used that memory to encourage your heart years later. Or, share a funny camping story. Please leave a comment as I’d love to hear from you!

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8 Responses

  1. So beautiful! I am of lover of treasured memories and having markers to bring them to mind. I love that the lantern gave you a glimpse of your father. One look at an object from the past can stir up emotions that can leave us undone.
    My memory is not from my childhood but it did leave me in a puddle in the middle of my garage today. I took the morning to straighten our garage and came across a box of my college memories that I have not looked inside in 10-15 years. As I dug through the contents I found a package that had never been opened. Tearing it open I found my graduation cap and gown with a tassel from 1999 along with golden cords and a hood. It was the gown I should have worn when I graduated with my masters. It was left unopened because my best friend was in a very serious car accident week before I should have walked. Instead of driving to NAU, I spent several weeks in the waiting room of the ICU unit at Scottsdale Osborn, praying that my friend would wake up. God spared her life and she is still a big part of my life today. She’s what I affectionately call “my sister from another mister.”
    Today my tears fell remembering the pain in that season of my life but my emotions turned to praise as I recognized God’s faithfulness once again. The story of my life is so different than I ever expected – in fact, it’s not what I had planned at all. But, during that season in 1999, God got ahold of my heart and placed me on a course with future beyond my wildest dreams. And now I am living the best life serving Him.
    So thankful for an unopened package to remind me of that truth today. And I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know… I put on my cap with it’s tassel and the hood and waltzed into my husband’s home office. His look was priceless but knowing the story he just stood up and held me. I should have played the graduation march as I did. Well, maybe in another 10 years.

  2. I can always count on a great
    heart touching story from you
    Judy! I love this. I can almost
    feel the cool mountain air , hear the rustling of those crisp autum leaves and smell Rick’s breakfast bacon cooking!
    I see why it brought back all those
    sweet childhood memories. And that little Colenan suspended from the tree branch? It’s no wonder its light shone brightly. It was your dad’s lantern after all.

  3. Beautiful! Definitely remember our backyard camping adventures, camping on the Great Wall, and houseboat, and cabins and B&b’s in the CO mountains.

  4. oh Judy, I can’t wait to read your stories to my great-nieces and nephews and grandbabies one day! I know in the bottom of my heart that you, my friend, are a writer. You need to keep writing. I’ll be praying for time, blessings, and opportunities for those stories to bloom into books before your very eyes. Thank you for this beautiful word picture of a daddy who loved his daughters and tenderly passed on his legacy.

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