One of the rich blessings of having written hundreds of devotionals for our homeschool group is this: I have recorded our family's daily experiences, God's daily graces, over the course of the past 18 years! With Ben's graduation coming up, I've been reading through the ones that paint a picture of his childhood. This is among my favorites.
Up on our hilltop, some days simply seem to be made for the memory books. Like today: As I stand at the dryer and fold laundry, I can see Benjamin outside, capturing crickets and grasshoppers. No matter that, last night, he and Matthew have already caught and fed 30 crickets to our skinks and gray tree frogs, who pounced upon their moveable feast with leggy glee. Ben and Matthew’s Daddy estimates that our reptile tank will not need crickets for at least a week.
But, in spite of this information, Ben continues to chase big black crickets and little green grasshoppers for his plastic “cricket canister.” Knowing he can’t feed them just yet to our lizards and frogs, he stuffed the canister with roughly one pound of grass, leaves and other assorted organic materials, so they would feel at home (and fatten up?) in their remaining days before becoming reptile chow. He even snuck them into his room during naptime, so he could enjoy their chirping companionship. He assured me with blue-eyed sincerity that he did NOT open the lid. (I am waiting for the day that he sets up cricket races in the sunroom. . .)
I don’t remember if I ever chased crickets as a child, but I do remember chasing my brother and sisters in our postage-stamp backyard in greater Boston. We climbed apple trees and took aim with rotten fruit. We made cakes and pies from leaves and mashed berries. We designed forts in the shrubs that surrounded our house. We played hide-and-seek, mother-may-I, and all kinds of other games that I can’t recall at the moment (and, honestly, probably never will remember again). But that simple, sunny, outdoor joy is a vivid memory. I can still feel it as I watch Benjamin leaping through the uncut grass and wild strawberry vines carpeting our backyard.
Matthew finishes his math assignment and runs to the door: “Ben! I can come out now!” Ben has proven to be an expert cricket locator. But, while he tends to squash the poor bugs with his aggressive technique, Matthew gets them quickly and safely into the canister. (You would think they were hunting wildebeest on the plains of Africa for how seriously Matthew stalks his prey.) They work well as a team. Day after day, they choose cricket-catching over swimming in the pool, riding scooters, or even sliding down the mud hill.
As I describe the delight my boys take in “simple things,” a friend with teenagers reminds me that their interests will change as they grow up. They won’t be as content to make up games at home, she says wistfully, but will want to be out with friends, doing more planned sorts of activities. I am glad to be reminded that these young years won’t last forever, so I will savor them all the more.
Later, when I look out the window and see Benjamin and Matthew hot on the trail of those hopping critters, my heart swells with pleasure at being able to be home with them during their childhood years, to share in the things that bring them joy.
And so I leave my pile of unfolded laundry on the floor, run outside and join them in the chase.