A Fortunate Mistake

In 2006, my family spent April vacation in Utah. We had flown out with our camping gear and met my brother-in-law and his wife for our annual trip. They did not have children and greatly adored their niece and nephew. The kids were 5 and 3 at the time; on the young side for adventurous hiking trails, but very willing to do their best. They happily skipped or ran along, exploring the National Parks we visited. Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce were several of the places we stayed for several days, setting up our tents and enjoying nature. 

We all have fond memories of that trip: spotting whitetail deer on the trail or bald eagles flying overhead. We even saw a bear and her cubs saunter through our campsite, while we safely watched from the car. We attended Ranger talks around the campfire, cooked S’mores after dinner and sipped our morning coffee or hot chocolate in our sleeping bags.

The kids were real troopers on the hikes and rarely complained. When their legs started to tire, their dad or uncle would scoop them up and give them a piggy back ride until they asked to get down. My BIL usually took my son. He would let him sit on his shoulders and bounce him around, while leading us all in song. “If I had a hammer” was one of our favorites and we merrily sang the verses over and over. The kids would join in and the hikes seemed to pass quickly. Before we knew it, we were back at our tent prepping dinner or kicking a ball around. BIL was almost always involved in the games. He loved being silly with the kids and they enjoyed playing with him.

Later, we roasted marshmallows around the fire and the kids would usually snuggle in his lap as we looked at the stars and reflected on the day’s activities. It was a wonderful family bonding time and well worth waiting a whole year to do again. As the end of the trip approached, BIL purchased a gift for each child as a souvenir of the fun times we had. When my son opened his present- a long-sleeved t-shirt with the logo “Moab Utah” on it- we immediately saw the error in BIL’s judgment. It was an adult-sized shirt for a 3-year-old boy. My son thanked his uncle anyway, since it was the thought that counts. We laughingly packed it up and flew home.

Somehow the shirt was transferred to my daughter, since she was slightly bigger, and it ended up buried in her dresser for years.Sadly, since then BIL has passed away. His long  battle with cancer made it too difficult for any further camping trips, so that was the last one we were able to take together. Yesterday my daughter came downstairs in her sweat pants and an orange shirt that said “Moab Utah” on it.

I asked her if she knew where it came from.  “Of course, Uncle BIL got it.” I smiled, starting to get teary-eyed. “What’s up, Mom?”  “It’s funny that when he got it, you were too little for it; but it fits you now after he is gone.” I replied, reflectively. “Well, if you already knew that, why did you ask me?”  I had no acceptable answer to that retort. Instead I walked away and enjoyed my emotional moment alone. I am so thankful that what we once saw as a humourous mistake has evolved into a treasure that will be appreciated for many years to come.