Recently, my husband and I took a trip to Idaho to visit family. While there, we took a road trip to Yellowstone National Park. We stopped for dinner on the way back at a little restaurant in St. Anthony, Idaho, called the Idaho Burger Grill. A family heard us talking with the waitress about coming from California, and they started a friendly conversation with us. This was a wonderful family! They had a little girl (oh, so cute!) who was excited to tell me that they were going to Yellowstone the next day. I told her that we had just come from there, and that she was going to have a really good time. She excitedly told me that she was going fishing! I told her that would be fun, and that I used to fish with my grandpa.
For me, this wasn’t just a friendly conversation in a friendly restaurant. This was the icing on the cake of a wonderful day admiring God’s creations. I left the restaurant with a very happy heart.
Later in the evening, I began to think about this family again. I replayed the conversation in my head. There is so much more I wish I’d said! The things I wish I’d said keep nagging at my heart.
This sweet little girl was sitting on her daddy’s lap. You could see the joy in her eyes, and the love she had for her father. There were two older, well-mannered boys. The mother was just as friendly and attentive as her husband. This is a family who loves each other. This is a family who is out to make sweet memories together.
I thought about sweet memories I had with my own parents. As I reminisced in my head, I thought about a vacation we took to San Francisco when I was four years old, just slightly younger than the little girl at the restaurant. While walking down Fisherman’s wharf, my dad stopped at a flower vender’s stand to buy me one red carnation, which he pinned to my coat. It was a sweet gesture, and a moment that I cherish 61 years later.
Again, the things I wished I’d said nag at my heart. I wish I had told the family at the restaurant about that. I could have praised these sweet parents for making cherished memories with their children. I might have reminded them that many years after they are gone, these three children aren’t going to think about the electronics that were or were not purchased for them. They aren’t going to think about whether or not they lived in a fancy house, or the make and model of the family car. What will matter to them is the memories made together. This little girl is going to remember fishing with her daddy in Yellowstone National Park for the rest of her life. The older boys are going to remember hiking with their parents on the trails. The children are going to remember sitting on a bench with their parents waiting for Old Faithful to spew its glory.
The little conversation we had was wonderful—but I wish it had been just a little longer. Parenting is an extremely difficult job, and every parent needs encouragement. Why, oh why, didn’t I think to give these parents the praise and encouragement they so deserved?! Oh, the things I wish I’d said!
I’ve been thinking about other memories I have of my parents. I was very ill when I was a child, and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. On one particular occasion, I slept on the couch for several days. Dad was working out of town, and Mom didn’t want to leave my side, so she slept in a chair next to me. After many days, I woke up and asked for a bath and a bologna sandwich. I never will forget the excitement in her voice as she made several telephone calls telling people that I was okay. As a parent and grandparent, I appreciate the significance of that now, but at the time, I wondered why she wasn’t fixing that sandwich and drawing a bath!
I remember one hunting trip with my dad. After hiking a while, he told me to lay on my back under a tree, which I did. Then he told me to look up, and I did so. Dad got down under the tree, as well, and looked up. After a long silence looking up through the leaves gently blowing in the wind, Dad told me that no matter what challenges life would bring my way, never forget to look up. He also told me never to forget the way I was feeling at that moment—which was an indescribable sense of peace and contentment.
Parents, remember the words below:
“The most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home.” (President Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2000), 134.)
Maybe the sweet family we met in the Idaho Burger Grill will someday read this article, but I know the chances are probably slim to none. I hope someday someone else will give them the encouragement that I should have given. I hope they will say the things I wish I’d said.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.