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Enjoy the Little Things

Charlotte McMullen“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  — Robert Brault

“Line up girls. I have something for each of you,” he said.

Squeals of excitement he hadn’t anticipated filled the room, and my husband assured his five young daughters, “Now, now. Calm down. They’re really nothing.”

Nothing was an understatement. It was the same phrase he’d mentioned to me prior to leaving. “I’ll be gone for a little more than a week. It’s nothing.”

But somehow nothing felt like a whole heck of a lot. Our family and the farm were my responsibility for the time he’d be gone — away on a hunting trip out west. It was a well-deserved trip no doubt; the man works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. I didn’t mind the extra responsibility. I didn’t want to be alone.

Alone is an exaggeration. There are plenty of family and friends nearby, and we have five children, but somehow they’re not the same as someone you’ve shared a bed with every night for almost 15 years. Yes, it’s true we shared a bed all those years, but at times that’s almost all we shared.

There’s this thing that happens in some marriages, heck, maybe in all marriages, especially when you have children: you begin to overlook the little things. One day blends into the next. Before you realize it, you’re celebrating anniversaries by the decade, not just the year. And it’s happened to us in the blink of an eye.

In the time he was gone, he was missed more than he knew. Sometimes I wondered if he felt the same. Did he think of us often? Or was he too busy searching for a trophy mule deer? This was a question I wasn’t sure I’d ever know the answer to — until he came home.

“Line up girls. I have something for each of you,” he said. He was taken aback by his daughters’ high pitched squeals. He didn’t expect that reception, and he’d forgotten how loud five kids can be. “Now, now. Calm down. They’re really nothing.”

I stood nearby and tears welled up in my eyes. I suspected he was underestimating the significance of the situation much as I had underestimated his feelings for us.

While hiking in the mountains of Colorado, he’d kept a watchful eye. At times, he bypassed them, but glancing back, he’d spot what he wanted and retrace his steps to retrieve them; all while bearing the weight of more than 60 pounds of hunting gear. He gathered the mementos and carried them in his jacket pocket, close to his heart.

Now I watched as he and our five daughters sat together on the living room floor. The kids smiled and giggled as he rummaged through his large, moss green duffel bag. Eventually, he found what he wanted: five small rocks. He looked at each stone, announced whom it was for, and presented it with many details about its discovery. Each girl listened to every word their father said and thanked him for the gift.

Five Little Rocks

As he spoke to our daughters, he occasionally glanced in my direction. There was a shine in his eyes and smirk on his face I hadn’t seen in some time — he was flirting with me. Later that day, as we walked together on the farm, he paused, pulled me to him, and held me tight. “I appreciate you taking care of things while I was gone. You’ve done a great job,” he said. “And I missed you most of all. It’s good to be home.”

On his hunt, far away from his family, my husband’s thoughts had lingered on us. He didn’t get meat for our freezer that year, but he did return home with the little things money cannot buy: stories about the miles of terrain he’d hiked, animals he’d seen, those five little rocks he’d carefully chosen for his children, and a spirit of gratitude. The little things we sometimes neglect to notice, but make a point of finding and keeping close to our heart, are life’s greatest treasures.

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