Donna Stanfield. Donna is from Lacey’s Spring, a mother of four and a nurse by profession. Her story’s have been published in some local magazines and now on the Internet.

Toward Worlds Of Their Own

There is an intriguing wonder about these days that linger in the South. They float on the cusp of autumn when the days dawn damp and chilly, then often slide roughly into blazing afternoons. The nights are clear and cool. The sky seems always to be a more brilliant shade of blue. It is the time of year when my mind seems to be fresher and more alive than ever before.

Perhaps it is because of some bio-rhythmic instinct that comes from realizing that for decades in this country, school has always begun in the fall. It is a time of first good-byes.

And yet, perhaps God in His infinite wisdom knows that we humans tend to learn more easily when we feel the sadness of something slipping away. Autumn is a time of reflection, a time of letting go of carefree play and settling in to predictability.

On one of these typically Southern, autumn days my son, Seth and I, decided to take a walk. Taking walks has always been our special time to talk, laugh and share. We go in the late morning when the sun is brightest but not too hot. In these special times he shares with me his child-like wonder of the world. This year our walks are even more precious to me. It will be the last year for quiet walks and time spent alone with my youngest child.

It seems incredible to me that this time next year, he too will enter school and begin his own special journey that will, many times, not include his mother. When that time comes, he too will slip into his own world of wonders.

Still, I have these last times. Still, it is in these times I cherish and even covet our mutual discovery of God’s, simple, magnificent world.

I have the “Mother Syndrome” sometimes, I think. You know the one. When you think that all the lessons that your children learn come from your direct influence. But sometimes our children have their own ideas as to whom their lessons come from and today Seth was determined to learn things on his own.

Now, Seth is four years old. The other three have been safely sent on their way to school. Seth is a typically stubborn and opinionated four year old. It goes without saying that not all our walks turn out as smoothly as I would like.

I watched him as we prepared to be on our way, noting the way he wiggled impatiently while I wrestled with his shoelaces. I wanted a peaceful stroll in the morning sun, hand in hand with my little boy. But Seth had his own agenda. This particular day he wanted to take his big, hard plastic motorcycle. I tried, in four year old terminology, to explain to him why I did not want the motorcycle to go with us. It would make too much noise, I said, (hard plastic wheels on pavement do not make for easy conversation), and then I could not hear what he was saying.

“But I wuv dis modocycle!” he wailed. I told him I understood, but I was firm in my decision. The “Modocycle” had to stay. After several minutes, our power struggle came to a head when I threw my hands up in exasperation. I bargained, ” Alright,” I said, unable to express to him the meaning of our walk, “You can ride the motorcycle in the yard and I will sit here and watch you.”

Seth sank woefully into the grass. “But what can I take, Mommy? Can’t I take sumfin? My modocycle will be sad.”

For a moment, I stood there silent, while Seth sat pouting on the ground. Sadly and thoughtfully he picked up leaves and twigs, examining each one carefully then casting each one aside. He waited for me to speak.

An idea struck. I strode purposefully to the kitchen cabinet and retrieved two small ziploc baggies. One of these I handed to Seth the other I kept for myself. I remembered a simple lesson I had been taught as a child and decided to share it with Seth.

“Whenever we leave our favorite treasures behind, God is sure to help us find new ones.” I explained, hopefully.

This seemed to be enough and reluctantly, Seth gave me a lopped-sided smile, took my hand and we were off.

Hand in hand we started down the road, eager to search out new treasures.

Against our faces, the cool morning breeze blew, whisking colorful autumn leaves across our path. Seth stooped down, picked up the brightest one, and grinning, placed it in his bag.

We gathered a few cheerful looking berries, careful to leave some behind for the birds and talked about how God feeds the birds.

Seth spotted a group of Queen’s Anne’s Lace bowing regally in the breeze. These would be the perfect surprise for his big sister. Wandering on, we simply took in the splendor that was so close to our front door.

Beginning to tire with the increasing warmth of the day, we bent over a fading patch of clover flowers, taking in their still lingering fragrance.

On an old country road, it is easy to be carefree, but we still paid attention when cars come creeping down the road. I looked up from the clover patch and saw a sheriff’s patrol car approaching us slowly.

For varied reasons from media to movies, Seth has developed an unfound fear of men who represent the law.

With Seth hiding behind me, I watched the police car slow to an observant halt.

Out climbed an unassuming old sheriff. We chatted a moment about the weather, the start of school, the change of seasons. His rough leathery skin was marked with deep creases. He wore a kind smile that was complimented by twinkling green eyes. The wizened looking old guy crouched down to eye level with Seth. Man to man, he questioned Seth about the contents of his bag.

Shyly at first, Seth held out his treasures. Within the little baggie were four tiny red berries, one brilliant orange, red and gold leaf, a silver dollar-sized Queen Anne’s lace and one fragrant, lavender clover flower that was soft to touch.

Quietly, I stood by and was warmed by the easy rapport between the old man and my little boy. With a knowing wink in my direction, he headed toward the trunk of his car, returning with a large cuddly Teddy Bear that sported a badge on his chest and a big sheriff’s hat.

Pure exuberance radiated from Seth’s face as hesitantly, he reached for the big ole Teddy Bear. His soulful blue eyes met mine and I knew that we were sharing a secret far beyond words. Here, definitely was a new treasure!

The old sheriff drove away without any fanfare except that of a small toe-headed little boy on the side of a country road. Seth stood there clutching a baggie of things gathered from the fields, a big soft Teddy Bear and waved his delicate hand until the car was out of sight.

From a child’s level of understanding, I knew that he had learned his own lesson in faith that day.

My lessons in faith would continue from here. The mother’s lesson in faith that includes watching her treasures slip away, onward toward worlds of their own. With bitter-sweetness, comes the wondering if they will have enough faith to face the things that will inevitably slip away from them. With acceptance, comes the hoping and praying that they will realize change, if allowed, can bring with it the most unexpected and delightful surprises!

Someday I will be standing alone, with a bag full of treasured memories in my mind and probably a house that is full of lonesome Teddy Bears. And I will wave until the last child is out of sight and it will be like the autumn of my life. And I will probably remember the day that Seth let one of his treasures go and how a kind old man gave him something delightful in return. Then, I will slip away to my own new world of wonders.

I realize now, that some lessons are not meant for mothers to teach. They are meant to be learned simply through living. They are learned through our children and through our pain. Through kind old strangers. Through the trees, the flowers and the sky. Through the changes in the seasons of our lives.

Donna Stanfield