75: S’more

75: S’more

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen


Angels are never too distant to hear you.

~Author Unknown

It was the most beautiful day of that summer—blue sky, billowy clouds, and a dandelion-bright sun. Strange, though, we were the only ones enjoying it at the state park.

My father stood over a campfire roasting hot dogs, while my mother and I pushed marshmallows onto skewers. My two high-strung preschoolers ran amok. We’d arranged the picnic hoping they’d run off some of this energy and go to bed early.

Connor, my five-year-old, grabbed one of the sticks my father had cleaned and sharpened for the marshmallows, raised it over his head, and shouted to his four-year-old brother, “It’s morphin’ time. Wham. Bam.”

Kyle shrieked, sharp like a coach’s whistle.

My neck muscles twitched as the boys ran round and round the campsite.

“Stop it,” I yelled, trying to hold a skewer of marshmallows over the coals.

Connor poked the stick at his brother. They fell and rolled across the ground.

One of the marshmallows burst into flames. I blew it out.

“Come here and help me!” I shouted, as I turned to see them pulling each other’s hair.

When I glanced back at the marshmallows, they’d fallen onto the coals, sizzling in a tar smear.

“That’s it,” I said, tossing the marshmallows and sticks into the woods.

Connor released a lock of his brother’s hair, crestfallen. “But the s’mores, Mommy.”

“I don’t think so,” I snapped and plopped down on the picnic bench next to my parents.

They shot me a look of utter disbelief. A picnic wasn’t a picnic without s’mores. It had been our family’s tradition ever since my mother was a Brownie troop leader. My sisters and I used to lick the marshmallow-chocolate-graham cracker goo from our fingers, and my mother would wink at us and ask, “You know why they call them s’mores?”

We’d chant back, “Because you always want some more.”

Now my mother said, “Why don’t you take a break? Dad and I will take the boys to the water. You just sit here and relax.”

“The boys can’t swim,” I said. Then I remembered, neither could my parents.

“They’ll just be wading,” Mom said. “The water’s only this deep at the edge.” She pointed to her calf and gave me a you-worry-too-much look.

My parents grabbed their lawn chairs. Also a tradition, they would sit in the shade, let the cool breeze toss their hair, and listen to Hank Williams on the radio, while the kids splashed along the beach.

I waved them off, feeling wickedly happy to have a few minutes to myself.

Still not another boater, swimmer, or picnicker in sight. Strange, I thought.

I saw the boys run on the beach, kick off their sandals, and dunk their toes in the water. Any second Connor would be soaking his brother. I didn’t want to watch.

When I looked up the hill, I noticed big tire ruts, now overgrown with weeds, running from the top of the hill down to the water—a path of some kind. Then it hit me—my kids were playing on an old boat launch, a concrete ramp sloping down into deep water.

I ran to the beach just to hear Connor kerplunk into the dark water. His face beamed—but for only a second.

Fingers splayed, he reached to me and screamed, “Help me, Mommy. Help me!”

He slid backwards. I reached, but the tips of my fingers just brushed his. I tried to grab him again, but he slid out of reach.

I kicked off my sandals. My bare feet hit what I thought was going to be concrete. Instead it felt mushy and slick, like Jell-O. I was sliding fast. Long green tendrils of algae covered my feet. I bent my knees, skating down the ramp.

I slid into Connor, grabbed him, and lifted his head. Our weight and the volume of water slowed our glide, but we didn’t stop.

I managed to turn us around and tried walking back up the ramp. I fell and fell again. The more I fought, the farther from shore we slid.

Swim. I knew that was our only hope. Between Connor’s extra fifty-two pounds and my inability to find a hard, stable surface for my feet, I couldn’t lift us to a point of buoyancy. We simply flailed in the water, sliding deeper and deeper.

The water hit my chin. I yelled, “Help!”

My mother wrung her hands. Dad handed my mom his watch. He could barely swim—certainly not enough to save us. He must have figured that he’d rather die than watch us drown.

I wanted to yell at him to stop, but I could only gurgle.

I stood on my tiptoes, the water up to my lips. I knew we were about to drown.

At that point I decided the lake could take me, but it would take not my son—not if I could help it. I would put Connor on my shoulders, hold my breath, and stand like a pillar until he was rescued or until I couldn’t stand anymore.

I took one last look at my parents.

To my surprise, they weren’t looking at us, but at something in the distance—something moving. Finally I made out a chestnut ponytail bobbing in the water. Then emerged a woman moving towards us with swift, long strides—not slipping at all. Towards Connor and me, she pushed an air mattress.

At the beach, Connor scampered away, but I collapsed, shaking, gasping for air. I looked around to thank this woman, but she was gone.

“Which way did she go?” I asked my parents. They looked around and shrugged. We searched the water, the beach, the park—as before, we were totally alone.

I felt a light tap on my shoulder.

Kyle stood next to me, his hands cupped. He unfurled his fingers to expose a dandelion, no bigger than a lemon drop.

“I picked this for you,” he said, blinking back tears.

No stem, just the flower. I pinched the yellow blossom between my thumb and forefinger. My mouth twitched.

Instead of crying, though, a big laugh exploded from within me.

Kyle giggled, which only made me laugh even harder.

Connor joined in, and we laughed, for no reason other than it just felt good being alive and together.

“What about the s’mores, Mommy?” Kyle asked.

“Yeah, Mom,” Connor said. “Can we have them… now?”

I saw my children in a way I hadn’t for a while—their faces so full of love and life.

“I bet if you look in the edge of the woods, you’ll find those marshmallow sticks,” I said.

They squealed, which now sounded like music to my ears.

I’d never really believed in miracles. But nothing else explains what happened that day. Since then, though, I thank God every day for giving me a second chance—His own version of s’more.

~Debbie Hagan

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