Yesterday we enjoyed a rare day off from school and work and took the kids hiking – a short trail to see one of the largest, and oldest trees in our area. We basked in the coolness of early fall, happy to be free of the heat and heaviness of the summer humidity. The children laughed as they progressed down the trail, Lucy and Jordan taking turns in the lead, Josh with Henry on his back, and Sam and I bringing up the rear. Different from his older brother and sister who are constantly in competition to be the fastest and the first, Sam’s hiking is all about the journey, instead of the destination. He stops and picks flowers, collects acorns, turns over rocks and points at interesting mushrooms. He meanders.
At one point in our meandering, he said to me, “Mommy, this is the luckiest day ever! I’ve found an acorn, and a flower, and I haven’t tripped or fallen once!” I slipped his little hand in to mine and told him I felt lucky because he was hiking with me. “You feel lucky because of me?” he marvelled.
As we continued down the trail, a small, but mighty swarm of yellow jackets, perhaps attracted to the brightness of my shirt, determined me to be a most desirable target. I was stung twice as I yelled for everyone else to run ahead so as not to get stung as well. By some small gift of fortune, I was able to outrun the angry buzzing in my ears. I stopped when I reached the rest of my family. Josh asked if I was alright, to which I immediately answered I was fine, just grateful that none of the children had been stung.
Sam looked up at me and said, “Mommy, you’re more concerned about your children then you are yourself!”
“Of course I am, Sam,” I said. “I’d rather be stung a hundred times than have one of my kids suffer it once.” He reached and took my hand back into his.
It really is that way, isn’t it? A hundred stings, an angry bear, a storm, a river of molten lava.. when it comes to protecting my kids, I’m not sure much of anything could stand in my way. A mother’s courage, when standing in front of her babies, in all of their trust and love and faith, is almost certainly one of the strongest forces imaginable.
We continued on down the trail, marvelled at the massive tree that was our destination, picked up snails, dug for earthworms, and named the leaves of all the trees surrounding us. On the return trip, I was stung three more times. And Sam, guilty only because he chose to hike next to me was stung once. Though Josh walked slowly and looked carefully, he was unable to find a nest. It must have been there though, lurking in some corner of the trail, apparently with a perfect vantage point of me, in all of my orange t-shirt brightness.
The fifth sting, on the back of my hand, is still swollen and sore. I feel a bit sorry for myself and then I remember that it could have been so much worse. What if the baby had been strapped on to my back when the rampage started, and Henry had been stung? What if the children had found the nest, angered the bees and found themselves the victim of my own current pain and discomfort?
No, I don’t mind the sting. If it means my babies are safe and well, then go ahead. Sting me again.