This beautiful story is written by a sister named Brenda Valdez. Her family and ours have been very close for the past six years and this is an allegory of our experiences. Enjoy.
Early on in the night, I was having a very difficult time sleeping. I had awoke several times to the chilling wind knocking on my window. The usual ray of moonlight that slipped through my blinds was nowhere to be found. And though the coverings upon my bed were made of the finest down feathers, I felt oddly exposed to everything around me.
Lying there I was beginning to imagine all sorts of scary things lurking in the shadows of the corners of my room and in the vast underworld of my bed. My throat began to feel as if I had swallowed a cup of sand before crawling into bed earlier in the night. My heart started to thump to the beat of my mind, and my palms became as clammy as the ocean outside my window.
I dared an ever so slight turn of my head to the right of my bed to peak at the clock on my wooden nightstand. 11:01pm. Dread poured over me. How was I ever to endure another six hours of this before my grandfather’s alarm would announce the beginning of a new day, and my freedom from the night?
As if on cue, my grandfather, whom I affectionately call Pap, creaked open the door of my room and poked his silver covered head of hair in slightly and whispered to me, “Sweet dreams Ben.”
I called out to Pap with a shout that surprised both of us, “Wait! Please don’t go yet!”
Pap entered my room and crossed over the wooden planks that he had laid 50 years or so before to build this quaint and quiet beachside home.
He knelt down beside me and began to stroke my cheek with his hand. I noticed, as if for the first time, how weather beaten Pap’s hands looked, but more so how tender and comforting they felt. Pap looked me over and then said in his soft raspy voice, “Tell ya what. How bout a nice cup of milk, and while your sipping on that, we will sit on the couch in her room and I’ll tell you bout that picture of the Badger family you’ve been hounding me about?”
I hopped out of bed quicker than a rabbit on the run and we made our way down the short hall to the kitchen. Pap turned on the small bronze stained lamp with its blue and white zig-zag lined shade that she had kept on the coffee stand all those years. A soft glow lit up the small kitchen and I climbed onto one of the brown leather covered stools that sat alongside the butcher block island that Pap had built for her years before. All of my fear and anxiety from just minutes before was beginning to fall away and the few memories I had of Gran began flowing through my thoughts.
Pap was busying himself with making us the perfect midnight snack. I watched as he put a silver kettle on the gas stove to begin the process of making him his cup of coffee that he loved to indulge in late at night. He reached over to the the cabinet on the side of the fridge and pulled out a glass jar for me to have my milk. He then opened the fridge, and as he searched for the gallon of milk he had specifically bought for me that weekend, I wondered what he had been like when Gran had been alive.
Pap broke the silence of my many thoughts with the humming of a tune I had heard him sing over and over again. It flowed from his lips as if it were the very air he was breathing. As he continued to busy himself with preparing our late night delights I could tell he was living in another time in his own thoughts. I noticed that though this song seemed to bring him great joy and comfort it also seemed to make him sad. I had never thought to ask him why he seemed so sad at the end of that tune until this moment. The words slipped out before I could stop them, “Pap, why does that song seem to make you so happy and so sad all at the same time?”
Pap looked up from the plate of cookies he was arranging in the shape of a smiley face and paused for what seemed like hours to me, but was only a moment. A soft smile formed across his lips and he said, “How about we take this into her favorite room?” He gestured to my jar of milk and I hopped off the stool and grabbed my milk and followed Pap into Gran’s favorite room.
The room was to the right of the kitchen and living area. There was no door to the room; just an oversized entry with intricate molding encasing it. There were several windows that faced the beach and ocean. Flowing white curtains framed each one of the windows. It had a cream colored love seat that felt like you were sitting on a cloud. A couple of small lamps set on mahogany stained wooden end tables and several mahogany book cases that lined the back wall. Each book case was filled with books and photo albums and frames and trinkets that I’m sure Gran had picked out. There was also a black leather recliner that was Pap’s favorite napping spot in the corner. A soft white blanket was tossed across the back for Pap to use when he took his naps.
I could tell why this had been Gran’s favorite room. The room itself was an invitation to come in, curl up and relax. The ocean view was just an added bonus.
Pap and I seated ourselves on the love seat and placed our drinks on either side of us on the end tables. We turned on the lamps and sat the plate of cookies between us. We each ate a cookie and took a sip of our drinks and sat for a moment. Finally Pap spoke up and said, “Well son… (he called all of his grandson’s ‘son’. I was his youngest grandson though. My parents said I was the greatest ‘surprise’ blessing they had ever received. Mom and dad had gotten pregnant with me when they were in their mid forties. They had not planned on having any more children, but here I was.)”
Pap continued, “You have been hounding me about that picture of the badgers over there on that shelf since you could walk and talk.” He pointed to the bookshelf behind him. I looked over at the picture where he was pointing. He was right. I had wondered for all eleven years of my life so far, why Gran and Pap had a picture of a badger family in a frame that was inscribed with the words, “Precious Lord.”
Pap looked down for a moment as if trying to recall a story he had once told and was trying to remember the words exactly. He looked up after a brief pause and I heard a small whisper leave his lips, “Jesus Lord, Thou will be satisfied.” I wanted to ask what he meant, but decided to wait and let him start when he was ready. I grabbed another cookie and dunked it in my milk. As I started to shove the whole cookie in my mouth, Pap began to tell the story of the Badger family in the photo.
Once upon a time, there was a young family of badgers who lived in the grassy meadows of the Midwest. Their family had lived in these parts for several generations. Daddy Badger would get up each day and go about his work, while Momma Badger took care of her chores and their two young badger cubs. Every day was pretty much the same as the last; except for the occasional storm that would blow in and threaten to reduce everything to shreds.
Daddy Badger seemed to grow discontent with each new day. The young cub badgers would hear him grumbling to Momma Badger about how he felt as if there were more to life than what they had been told. Daddy and Momma Badger would stay up late some nights talking about what they thought was beyond the grassy meadows that they had always known.
They would talk about the lion they had heard rumors of that roamed the lands. Some said he was ferocious and mean and ate any creature who did not do exactly as he commanded. Others said he would let you offer him a sacrifice to try to right your wrongs, but that if he didn’t think the sacrifice was good enough, he would kill you and all of your family. Still others said that he demanded way too much and no one could ever please him no matter what.
There were many who did not believe that this lion even existed. Most said it was a fairy tale and that parents used the stories to frighten their children into being good.
Daddy Badger said there were those who claimed they had seen the lion. That he was real and that he wasn’t a ferocious killer, but a protector. That he even looked as gentle as a lamb. And that anyone was allowed to approach him.
One day while Daddy Badger was out hunting for food, he ran into an old friend he had known from his young days in the meadow. It was Raccoon. Daddy Badger called him RC for short. They began talking and sharing stories from the days when they had danced across the meadow to hip hop music and their dreams of becoming famous someday.
After they caught up on all of the things and places they had been and the families they had both started, they began to talk about the rumors of the lion. They both agreed that they wanted to know more, but searching for the truth about the lion came at a cost. Other field animals would mock you and tease you and not want to associate with anyone who thought the lion rumors to be true. So Daddy Badger and RC Raccoon decided that they wanted to start having their families hang out and get to know one another and maybe pursue this lion rumor a little more, but carefully.
After much coaxing and prodding Daddy Badger and RC Raccoon finally got their wives to meet one another and their children too. Soon, both families were inseparable. They went hunting together and ate their meals together and started talking more and more about the rumors of the lion.
After spending time together for a lil over a year, Momma Raccoon had had enough. She wanted the talking about the lion to stop being just talk. She wanted to leave the grassy meadow and go in search of this lion she had heard so much about. RC Raccoon didn’t know what to think about this. Daddy Badger said he had heard tale of a couple of wise old owls who claimed they had seen the lion with their very own eyes. They were visiting not far off from the grassy meadow.
It was decided that Daddy Badger and Momma Badger would go with RC Raccoon and Momma Raccoon and see what these wise old owls had to say. They left the young ones with trusted family and headed on a three day journey to speak with these owls.
The trip, though long, was joyful with lots of laughter filling the void of time. They arrived at the location that Daddy Badger said he had heard the owls would be. They decided to eat some food they had packed for the journey and then take naps until the night time when the owls would most likely be out…
We will be posting Part 2 next Tuesday. Stay tuned.