I awoke to loud whispers coming from down the hall in my oldest son's room. This is why I slept with my bedroom door open, so I could try and stay a step ahead of the junior members of the family. I glanced at the clock not sure if I was reading it correctly. Six thirty-five. What was everyone doing up so early? Usually everyone slept in on Saturday morning unless we were doing something special. As I padded down the hall toward the voices, I stepped on a board that creaked. Suddenly all was quiet. Sometimes, I really hate hardwood floors.
Expecting to see only my four children in my son's room, I was quite surprised to see our three neighbor's children as well.
"What's going on? What are you guys doing here?" I asked looking from child to child. I was not really angry, more curious than anything.
"Nothing," was the reply from all seven children in unison. This is the standard answer when busted while planning a covert operation, along with the 'deer in the headlight' look in the eyes. I knew they were up to something, but I knew they were not about to tell me what it was.
We lived in a small mountaintop community. There was not much trouble young kids could get into here. I particularly liked it because it gave the children a chance to use their creativity and imaginations instead of having to be constantly entertained. They actually knew how to play, and didn't require a television or video game. So, even though I was curious, I wasn't worried, and, they didn't have many more days before the weather would start turning cold. So I returned their privacy to them and went downstairs to start breakfast. After all, they would need energy to carry out their mission, of this I was sure.
"Mom, do you have any buckets or containers you don't need any more?" asked my daughter as she finished the last bite.
"Sure. Look in the shed, there should be some. Take what you need." I replied, wondering what they were going to be used for but not asking.
"Thanks. Let's go you guys!" exclaimed my son and everyone ran out the door.
Ruffy, our dog, whined at the door and I let him out. At least he could stay with them and offer some protection if need be. I shook my head and smiled to myself. Kids, I thought, they do keep you on your toes. I poured another cup of coffee and sat down on the sofa with the paper. I loved leisurely Saturday mornings. It wasn't easy raising four children on your own, but they were worth every sacrifice. I just wish I could give them more.
Several hours past and I had finished with all my chores for the day and noticed that it was already late afternoon. The children must really be busy because they hadn't returned to the house since they left. I wasn't worried about them getting hungry because they had taken enough snacks with them to feed a small army and they knew to be home before dark. About an hour later I was in the kitchen looking to see what I would make for dinner when I heard the front door slam.
"Hey! You home?" came the familiar voice of my neighbor and mother of the other three children.
"Yeah, I’m in the kitchen," I called back.
"Have you seen the kids? It's getting dark," said my neighbor.
"I was just thinking the same thing. Let me grab a flashlight and we can go look for them. They know better than to be out after dark."
We left and headed for the woods down at the end of the street. It was familiar territory to us because the children played there a lot. It didn't take long for us to hear their voices and Ruffy's bark, and we called out to them. They were by the little stream that ran through that part of the woods. When we got to where they were, we could see that they had been here for more than just today. There were buckets and containers of every size, everywhere. Whatever it was, it had been an ongoing project for a long time.
"What have you guys been up to?" I asked.
"It's a surprise!" they yelled.
The children gathered around us. They were dirty and looked exhausted, but very, very happy. My son explained, "We know how hard you both work to take care of us and that you don't have very much. We wanted to do something to help. One day we were playing by the stream and we noticed all this shiny stuff. We knew that if we could get it out, you would never have to work hard, or worry about anything again. That's why we needed all the buckets and stuff. We got them all filled but didn't know how we were going to get it all home. Maybe we can get help in the morning. Just look at what we found!"
We all shone our flashlights on the buckets. I was stunned. I then shone my flashlight into the stream. I saw that my neighbor had done the same thing, and I saw tears running down her cheeks. My own tears started at the point. You see, our children had been fooled like so many adults before them. The sparkle in the sand they saw was not gold, as they thought, but 'fool's gold' - iron pyrite. It broke my heart to have to tell them. They had worked so hard for so long. But then my neighbor and I took all of them into our arms and told them they had given us gold, real gold. That gold was the tremendous love that they had expressed to us by what they did. No amount of money could buy that, and they had made us rich beyond our wildest dreams!