Chapter 3: The Scarf

The way home from Nauvoo was a fun ride for Emily.  She and her father talked about Nauvoo, the temple, and their own farm and family.  Emily felt rather grown up having her father talk to her about such important matters.  In fact, he even told her she was becoming quite the young woman and should know about things that truly meant something in the world.  As they started up over the last small hill that led to their home, father took her hand and held it tight.

“Remember that daily life is just a speck in the sands of eternity,” her father said.  “And the Lord controls the sea.”

“That’s beautiful, pa,” Emily said slowly. “But…um...what exactly does that mean?”

Her father smiled a little and then explained.

“That means that sometimes we get all concerned and fret over little things in this world, when the only things that really matter are eternal things like our family, the gospel, friends, and all.  Those are the things that are important enough for us to worry about.”

They were starting down the hill now, and Emily could see their tiny cabin and barn.  Faith was outside chasing Albert around and around the woodpile nearby.  His giggling could be heard even over the creaking of the wagon.

“Let’s say,” father continued, “that we had gone down to the river bank in Nauvoo, and we saw that it was lined with beautiful wild flowers and that the trees were strong and green.”

“That sounds nice,” Emily commented, picturing what her father was describing.

“But then you noticed that a piece of dirt on the bank was out of place.  Now, which would you concentrate on, Emily?  The beautiful bank or the piece of dirt?” father asked as they pulled up to their barn.

“The beautiful bank of course,” Emily said, thinking that was a silly question.  Faith and Albert stopped their game and ran inside yelling that father and Emily were home.

“What if,” her father continued, still sitting in the wagon seat, “the bank was swampy and full of weeds and mosquitoes?  Would you notice the one piece of dirt still out of place or would you try to fix the whole bank?”

“The whole thing,” Emily answered, understanding now what her father was trying to teach her.

“And what if you knew that the Lord controlled the river, the very thing that gives life to the river bank?  Would you feel more secure?  More careful to trust in His words? Would you understand if He gave you advice about how to take care of the river bank?” father continued to question.

Emily thought about the whole analogy for a moment and then looked up into her father’s eyes.  She noticed her mother coming out of the cabin to welcome them home.  Faith, Albert and James were all close behind her.

“Yes, Pa,” Emily said, proud that she now knew exactly what her father was saying, “ I understand.  It’s silly to worry about little things when all the important things like your family and friends are all wonderful.  And you shouldn’t worry about something small if all the big, important things are in trouble.  And all things in our lives are watched over by the Lord so we really have nothing to worry about anyway.”

Emily’s father smiled and leaned over to give her a kiss on the forehead.  Just then, Faith jumped up and grabbed on to her father’s sleeve.

“Did you bring me anything, Pa?” she asked excitedly.  He turned and looked down at her jumping all around.

“Now maybe I did and maybe I didn’t, but you’ll never know till you hold still long enough for me to hug you!” he said, jumping down from the wagon and wrapping his big arms around his younger daughter.  

Emily got down, too, and went around to her mother.  She couldn’t wait to tell her everything she had seen that day and about her talks with her father.  She also wanted to tell her privately about seeing Adam and about his birthday party.

“Did you have fun, sweetheart?” her mother asked, wiping some of the dust from the road off Emily’s dress.

“Very much.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it,” Emily answered.

“First, wash for dinner.  You too, Jonathan,” mother said, pointing the both of them towards the water barrel.  

“Go ahead, Emily. Wash up and then go help your mother.  I’ve got to take care of the horses and wagon,” father said.  Then he slapped James on the back and motioned for him to help with the team.

“Come in the barn, son, and I’ll tell you what Brother Williams told me.  You might be as excited as I am about how well this little farm is going to do next year,” father said, guiding the horses toward the barn door.

James went with him into the barn while Faith and Albert went inside with mother to work on dinner.  Emily stood by the barrel and watched all of them walk away, talking and playing.  She looked around and decided that here on the Hart family river bank, the wildflowers were mighty pretty right now.  With a satisfied grin on her face, Emily finished washing up and went inside to help her mother.

“Dinner was great, ma,” James said, leaning back and patting his stomach.  “Only one thing was missing, though.”

“And what would that be?” his mother asked, raising her left eyebrow and staring intently at her oldest son.

“Pie,” he stated, lifting up his fork.

Mother smiled and shook her head, while the rest of the family rolled their eyes.  James was known for his pie-eating prowess. Emily had never met anyone who could eat more pie in a shorter amount of time than her brother.  It was a talent that he worked on perfecting, every chance he could get.

“I’ll get it,” Faith said, getting up to bring in the blueberry pie she had helped her mother make earlier that day.  James volunteered to cut and serve the pieces to everyone.

“You only do that so you’ll be sure to get the biggest piece,” Emily complained, watching her brother figure out the right angle that would provide him with the most blueberries.  

“That reminds me,” father said, looking with suspicion at his small piece of pie.  “We ran into Brother Curry today and he invited us again to Adam’s birthday party on the fourth.”

“Adam,” James said with a whine.  “I bet I know who really wants to go to that party."  So saying he nudged Emily with his elbow.  

“James, stop it,” Emily muttered angrily at her brother.

“James, be still,”  mother said softly but strongly.

Father cleared his throat and got everyone’s attention back to him.  James gave Emily an apologetic glance, and Emily shrugged to let him know he was forgiven.  Albert and Faith merely ate some more pie.

“As I was saying,” Father continued.  “We need to have some sort of present for him.  Any ideas?”

“Brother Curry said that he likes books.  Maybe we could get him one,” Emily suggested.

“Books are very expensive, Emily.  I don’t think we’ll be able to do that,” father answered, finishing the last bite of his pie.

“How about a book shelf?” mother asked.  “You and James could make him one couldn’t you?  Just a small one would do, I would think.”

Father nodded his approval.  “That’s a good idea, Ruth.  We can start working on that in the morning.  It shouldn’t take long at all.”

“How old will Adam be this year?” Mother asked as she stood up and began to clear off the table.  Emily began to help, and Albert started to do his part helping by throwing the last part of his pie towards James. 

“Hey!” James shouted, ducking the flying food.  Albert giggled and smeared what was left on his fingers onto his chubby cheeks.  Mother quickly cleaned up the mess, and father picked up Albert.

“Fourteen,” father answered, not disturbed by the antics of his youngest child.

“Shouldn’t he be getting his scarf then?” she asked.  

That question reminded Emily of her conversation with Brother Curry.  She had completely forgotten to ask her father about the little snowflakes on his special scarf.  She was sure there would be a great story behind it – there always was with her father.

“That reminds me, pa,” she said, walking over to him.  “Brother Curry said you had little snowflakes on yours.  Why?”

Her father and mother exchanged glances and smiles. 

“Why don’t you come with me outside for a few minutes, and I’ll tell you the story,” he answered, placing his hand on her shoulder.

Once they were out under the starry night, father leaned against the fence and settled in for his story.

“When I was very, very small I fell in love with snow.”

“Snow?  You fell in love with snow?” Emily interrupted, thinking that sounded rather odd.

“Now if you’re going to interrupt me every time I say something, this is going to be a rather long story,” father complained.

“Sorry,” Emily said.  Father cleared his throat and began again.

“When I was very, very small, I fell in love with snow.  I would go out and play in it for hours at a time.  My mother and father literally had to drag me in at night.  I thought it was the most wonderful gift the skies had ever given to earth.  It was fun to throw, build with, roll in, and even eat from time to time.  I prayed every day from April to October that today would be the day that the snow would return.  I had hours and hours of great fun in that snow. Yes, indeed,” father explained in a somewhat faraway voice.  He stopped and smiled as the memories of his childhood played in his mind.  His eyes twinkled, and his head tilted slightly as he laughed.

“But of course, there is more to the story,” he continued.  Emily perked up.  She knew there would be something more interesting about all of this other than her father having some strange fascination with snow.

“Since I was very young at the time, it was hard for me to understand where all the snow went in the spring.  My mother explained to me one day that the snow didn’t really go away, it just went back up into the sky to wait for the time when it could come down again.  To prove it, she told me to look up at the sky at night and to see what was there.”

At this point, Emily and her father both looked up into the night skies over their home.  The twinkle of stars and the blackness of night was all Emily could see.

“The stars,” father answered, as if guessing Emily’s question about the snow in the skies.  “I thought that the stars were little snowflakes glittering in the night, like they do in the sun here on earth.  Somehow that always made me feel better to know that those little snowflakes were right there all the time.”

Emily stared back down at her father who was still looking up at the stars.  She wasn’t sure if he was being serious or if he was joking.  This was a strange story, even for him.

“But you were fourteen when you got your scarf,” she pointed out, still a little confused.

 “Didn’t you know by then that those stars weren’t really little snowflakes?”

“Of course I did,” he answered.  “But the stars and the snowflakes had come to mean a lot to me by then.  Somehow, whenever I saw snowflakes or the stars, I felt good inside because they reminded me of all the great times I had as a child.  They reminded me of my brothers sledding with me and of my best friends pushing each other in to the snow banks.  They reminded me of my mother and her great stories to me at night, about snow angels and fairies.  And then, just like tonight, if I was ever feeling down, all I had to do was look up at the stars and all those great memories and feelings would come flooding back.  Do you understand now?”

Emily nodded.  Her father wasn’t so strange after all.

“The scarf we give at the fourteenth birthday is supposed to remind a boy, who is becoming a man, of all the joy he had as a child.  It gives him something to hold on to, and every time he puts it on, to remember those days, and how far he has come,” father said.

“I understand now, pa,” Emily answered.  “But if the scarf was so important to you, why did you lose it?”

Emily’s father quickly looked down at his feet.  He suddenly seemed a little uncomfortable, and Emily regretted asking the question.

“That is another story for another time, Emily,” he answered, beginning to walk back inside.

“Do you miss your little snowflake scarf?” she asked, walking after him.

“Yes, I do,” he said sadly, opening the door.

Emily walked inside with a smile because in that instant she had come up with a wonderful idea.

The next morning Emily waited until her mother was alone to ask her the important question.

“Can I make a scarf for Pa?” 

Her mother looked up from her cleaning with a surprised look on her face.

“A scarf?” she asked.  

“Yes.  Just like his little snowflake scarf that he lost.  I want to make it for him for Christmas,”

Emily said excitedly.  She was sure this was the best idea for a present that anyone had ever had.

Her mother looked unsure for a moment, even a bit sad.  Emily was just about to ask her what the matter was when her mother answered her.

“That would be a great idea, Sweetheart.  But I’m afraid I don’t have the time to help you with it right now.”

“What about Sister Ricks?  She’s making Adam’s scarf for Brother Curry.  Couldn’t she help me, ma?” Emily asked, having thought ahead about her mother’s response.

Her mother softly sighed and looked briefly up at the ceiling.  After thinking about it for a moment, she agreed.

“All right, but on one condition.  You and Sister Ricks need to make some sort of arrangement for pay.  I can’t afford to give you much for her time and the supplies.”

“I’ll talk to her at the party,” Emily said, hugging her mother.  “Thank you, Ma.  Just wait until Christmas; you’ll see how happy he is to have his scarf back.”

As Emily turned and hurried back to her chores, her mother watched her walk away. She had a somewhat pleased, somewhat sorrowful look on her face.  She then quickly brushed away a small tear that had begun to form in the corner of her eye and turned back to her work.