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  • Writer's pictureStephanie

Prodigal Vegetable

I’m not one to worry.  Oh wait, I’m a mom.  Maybe I do worry. Sometimes.  A little.  There are six young daredevils who are, most of the time, in my sole care.  If one complains of a headache I immediately consider the possibility he needs brain surgery again. Another is a toddler who defies gravity and usually loses.  I’m actually the queen of worriers.  I’m a worry warrior.  (Say that out loud a few times!)

I worry about my kids, my house, my husband, my stuff.  I worry my teeth are getting more crooked.  I worry I’m a bad mom.  I worry about my country.  I worry about mice getting into the chocolate chips.  I worry my vacuum is gonna die (I pray for it regularly.)  I worry about scarring the neighborhood with my children’s ghetto lawn ornaments (generally an assortment of nerf guns, various pieces of discarded clothing, and creative handmade squirrel traps.)  I’ve been practicing worry for years, and I’m getting good.

But I know better than to let it control me.  Of course I do.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have let two of my children go on a Spring expedition into the wilderness a few evenings ago.  Perhaps I knew it involved fording a small river because they asked me to pack extra clothes.  But perhaps they shouldn’t be tied to mama’s apron strings so tight they can’t occasionally get their feet wet.  Right?


Probably every culture has some indigenous foods that anyone hungry enough for the adventure can get.  Come Spring around here, it’s fiddlehead season.  Fiddleheads are tightly curled Ostrich Fern fronds.  They grow along shady riverbanks locally.  For a few weeks every year, people – like my dad- go out and harvest them.  This year, Grampy invited my two oldest boys along to help. It was sort of a coming-of-age ritual that was expected to involve water in boots and playing host to a blackfly family reunion. But the result is usually a decent haul of fresh, free vegetables that are quite palatable (as far as vegetables go. Chocolate is, unfortunately, not indigenous, but the upside is that I find no reason to relegate chocolate to a single season for eating.)

So off they went and I stayed home.  Not worrying.  I made supper.  I fed the four kids still tied to my apron strings.  Still not worrying.  My husband came home.  I bathed each child, dodging water gun squirts from the toddler as I mopped up puddles and made sure they weren’t drowning (because that’s my job after all, to keep them safe.)  I added diapers and pajamas to wriggling little bodies as it started to get dark.  Finally, I sent my dad a text.  Not because I was worrying of course.  Just curious.  He didn’t answer.  I put the boys to bed and sat to feed the baby on the sofa that strategically faced the window.

Ok.  I was worried.

About the time I finally admitted it, a taxi drove up.  My dad climbed out.  I craned my neck to see.  One… Two boys climbed out.  Relief flooded me.  Apparently no one had been washed down the river getting their vegetables.  That would have been tragic on so many levels.  I didn’t know why Grampy’s truck hadn’t returned, but that seemed a small casualty by comparison.

They tumbled in, slightly muddy around the edges, and my oldest announced triumphantly, “That was awesome!” The other grinned in agreement. “And turns out I like popcorn!”

The story came out in breathless pieces.  Since they’d had to ford the river, my dad had decided to lock his wallet and cell phone in the car rather than get them soaked in his pocket.  He’d put the key in his pocket.  The pocket had a hole.  The key found it.  Not until they’d returned with their haul of fern heads did they realize they weren’t getting home that way.  So plan B.  Off they walked to find civilization.  A lady at the third house they found welcomed them in to use the phone.  (And fed the intrepid explorers some popcorn.)  Unfortunately they all have come to rely on preset contacts on our phones, so none of them – neither my dad nor either of my kids – correctly knew another phone number.  (We don’t even have a home phone hooked up at the moment and some phone numbers have changed recently.  Don’t judge.)  So they couldn’t call anyone they knew to come to the rescue.  Hence, the taxi ride.

My husband and dad went off to get an extra key and return to the river for the truck.  I checked the boys for ticks and commandeered their trekking clothes in exchange for pajamas.  They trundled off to bed.

I promised to teach them all the important family phone numbers the next morning.  Maybe they don’t need my apron strings anymore, but they do need an open phone line to mom.  The ties that really bind.  May they never forget it.

photo by Grampy

photo by Grampy

I went to bed suddenly much less worried about the vacuum, the yard décor, or the chocolate chips.  Funny how you can lose someone for a few hours, and when you find them again, suddenly nothing else seems so important.  So rejoice with me. They were lost, but now they’re found.  And my freezer is filling with vegetables.  Kill the fatted fiddlehead, let’s celebrate!

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