Saturday's theme: (De)light
Son Sam and I went camping on possibly the most humid weekend ever recorded in the history of time. It was the weekend before Sam headed off to Emory and we wanted to `snatch one more little bit of time” before he went.
Our camping friend, Shelly found us a spot in a State Park in South Carolina. We booked two nights, borrow two tents, a cooking stove, grabbed some blankets and chairs and headed to the campground. It was hot. It was humid. And we were a little bit out of our element, Sam and I. But that turned out not to matter much.
After 55 minutes of reading and re-reading how to pop up a pop-up tent, Sam assembled both (damn) tents in about 10 minutes. By that time, we were both starving and scrambled around to build a fire to roast some hot dogs and settle in for the evening. When it was all said and done on our first night camping, we sat wearily down with about an hour of sunlight left. I got out a book and Sam was looking at his phone. Pretty soon, he asked me if I could see the snail on the tree about 20 feet away. Then Sam (as only Sam can do) told me all kinds of amazing things about snails. The ooze they produce is apparently remarkable. The Navy and the Air Force have been studying it for years, trying to replicate it. To no avail. They’d hoped to use the ooze as a lubricant in missile silos to reduce friction. Who knew? Our first camping night ended with Sam telling me all kinds of fun facts about snails.
We said good night and went to our tents for bed. Because Sam is a teenage guy, it really didn’t surprise me when he asked if it would be alright if he went into town (20 miles away) to get something to eat and bring me back some ice cream. “Sure. Be safe. I’ll wait up for you.” He came back 2 hours later, “Sorry no ice cream, it melted on the drive back. He’d gotten a double baconator and large fries at Wendy’s.” As we were both (finally) settling in for the night, I said, “Hey Sam, can you put the car keys just inside your tent, so I can get them in the morning?” “Sure.”
The next morning is when this (de)lightful story’s second chapter begins. I got up and unzipped Sam’s tent to get the car keys out. I reached in and right beside the keys was a snail. I’m not kidding. There was a snail just sitting (lying?) there beside the car keys. All I could think was, “Why in the heck would Sam take that snail off the tree and put it in tent?” Again, Sam is a teenage guy, so I had to wait until noon when Sam finally rolled out of bed to ask him that question. When I asked him, he said, “What are you talking about? What snail?” I went over to his tent, unzipped it and pulled out the snail and brought the snail to the picnic table. It was tightly in the shell. Sam put some water out, and then some different kinds of food – Captain Crunch, Broccoli, Lettuce on the table. And we watched. And we wondered.
Months later I still wonder how a snail (was it the snail from the tree or another one?) appeared in Sam’s zipped up tent? How did it show up right beside the keys where I was reaching in the early morning light? Was this just a wild coincidence? A message? If a message, then what? And why? Did we learn what we were supposed to learn? Did Sam? Did I?
It became apparent as we were “sharing breakfast” with our new camper, that s/he needed a name. Sam started calling him “Ringo” and the name stuck. You’ll have to ask him why that name, I honestly don’t remember. Ringo hung out on or under the picnic table on that hot and humid Saturday. It was fun to watch his progress. Gotta say, Ringo wasn’t much of a conversationalist, so I don’t feel like I came away with much of a knowing of him as much as an appreciation. Saturday night Sam carried Ringo back to his tree to `start again.’
What makes this story (de)lightful for me is the mystery of Ringo’s joining the party. What are the odds of such a thing happening? What are the odds of things happening in that order? It had been so easy for me to keep my attention on my book on Friday night. Not Sam. He was paying attention to the detail of what was around him. And Sam (because he’s Sam) had at some earlier time read-up on snails. Then at some point, somehow a snail got into Sam’s zipped-up tent and settled in. Is anyone old enough to remember the song, “Scarlett Ribbons”? It’s a Christmas song and worth googling, if you don’t know it. I just can’t help thinking about Ringo’s bunking in with Sam on Friday night as being a remix of that old song, “If I live to be one hundred, I will never know from where…”
Especially in these days that are growing darker and colder, in these nights with warm cups of hot chocolate, I love a story of wondering. Ringo’s Wild Adventure is one for me. Not sure what would make this story (de)lightful for Sam, you’ll have to ask him. For me this story holds a moment in time for me and my son. The week before he headed off to college, before he stepped into what would be an important rite of passage, he and I marveled at a mystery. Don’t know if it gets much better than that.
"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.