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Yes, I remember what happened so long ago. I remember what had almost been utter tragedy. I remember the strange circumstances that saved us. I'll never forget. I can't forget.
The clouds had parted to let the sun smile upon a white world in the English countryside. Snow drifted down hills towards a small, one-roomed, log cabin. To the east of the cabin was a forest of tall pines. Around the cabin the crisp, pleasant smell of the ancient pines drifted like a heavenly aroma. Birds sang this fine, winter's day. I did not quite appreciate how fine it was.
I had just come home from school in the small town a mile up. To me this was heaven. Who cares about the large mansions of the rich? I was happy where I was! I had math homework, but other than that, it was paradise.
I walked deep in thought until I reached the cabin with the gaping door that had needed to be fixed for years. Home! I looked up to the sky to be greeted by the sun's embrace and the merry sight of smoke rising from the chimney. I decided I would do my homework on the small, railed porch, because the weather was fine, for winter.
'Your late again, Jack! Have you been lingering over the beauty of God's creation again? Try to be home on time next time!' my mum chided from where she stood making dinner on the small stove.
'I'll try!' I had spoken shyly. I knew I shouldn't have taken so much time observing the squirrels play or the birds sing.
'You either will or you won't! What's the answer? Stop staring at me with those innocent green eyes of yours! What will it be?' she chided me.
'I'm sorry mum! I'll be on time next time!' I replied. I should have listened to her the last dozen times she had chided me.
I sat down on the porch's wicker rocker to do my homework. During this time there is not much to tell about. I can, however, say that I missed half of my math questions, and perhaps even a dozen literature questions. I was never very good at English, either.
The wind picked up and started to blow through the trees. They did not bow, however, for they were far too proud of their ancient history. The wind ruffled through my red hair and chilled me to the bone.
I was about to go inside and finish my work by the fire, when I heard a crash. I turned to see that a long, spear-like icicle had fallen at the base of the cabin. There was something lying next to it.
I looked harder to see that it was actually a small robin, with a breast as red as cherries. It had obviously been struck by the icy winter's spear and was hurt. It would not survive the cold night without the warmth of a fire.
Perhaps it could yet be saved. Oh, how I hated to see the poor thing lie there! I hurried down and put it into my stocking cap. I didn't want it to freeze to death! Oh, that would seem a terrible way to go!
'Jack, what was that crash I heard?' my mum asked, only half hoping for an answer. Truth be told, she usually didn't want to know.
'An icicle struck a poor, little, robin. May I take in and set it by the fire; it may yet be saved,' I asked, hoping she would say yes. After all, I did see its bright breast moving up and down still. It still lived.
'Oh, poor dear! Hurry, it will die of old age before you move! It's probably in shock. Set it by the fire that it may awaken!' My mum was always a lover of birds, ever since pa had written a poem about them for her, so long ago. She still treasured it.
I carried the precious bundle into the cabin and set it in front of the fireplace in the back of the room. To my left was a table, Christmas tree, and stove, and to my right were a pair of beds. One of the beds was mine, and the other my mum's.
Beside her bed was a night stand with a picture of my pa. I had desperately longed for him to come home, but now I knew that he was never coming back. I had last seen him just before he left to fight in the Second World War.
But there was time to brood over this later. Now, I had to take care of my precious bundle. It appeared his wing was hurt. 'Now don't worry, little Eaglet, I'll take care of you,' I had said.
My mum had evidently overheard my remark, for she said, 'Eaglet, is that what you wish to call him? Then Eaglet it is. Let me get you a binding cloth for his wing.' She hurried to her birch night stand and wistfully reached for a piece of cloth that would work as a binding cloth.
She came over to me and bound his wing. She looked at me tenderly. 'Do you promise to be on time for dinner and get your grades up?' I knew what she was getting at with that thick cockney accent of hers.
'Yes, I promise, I will truly!' I had squealed. Oh, I truly hoped that what I thought was going to happen would!
'Then I say, in honor of your tenth birthday, on this fine December 24, this will be his home for as long as he needs, or wants. After all, he still is a wild animal; they need their freedom, you know!' she said smiling. I knew he wouldn't be happy here, but it would still be an experience to remember!
This was going to be a wonderful Christmas! Already it was the beginning of vacation, and look what happened! Yes, it would be wonderful.
I slept by the fire that night, on a soft wool blanket, next to my beloved Eaglet, to ensure that he would be okay if he woke in the middle of the night. I didn't want him to be miserable anymore than he was!
The next day I awoke to find Eaglet standing beside me. His wounded wing bound tightly to his flank. His beady raisin eyes fixed on my waking form. In some way I think he understood what we did for him, and that in the near future, I would in turn need him.
I spent that day taking care of Eaglet, making sure he was at home. It turned out that his wing was not as badly hurt as I had thought, and by nightfall, I was able to take off his little cast. Even with his newly gained freedom, he did not leave my side, not even when I got under the covers of my woolen sheets. He stayed by me.
'If only his father could see this,' my mum had said. A tear trickled out of the corner of her blue eye. 'He would be so proud that his little boy understands love and compassion.'
I had overheard these words, too, and tear ran down my cheek as well. Eaglet snuggled closer to me than ever before. It was as if he understood the pain of losing one so close.
'It's okay, mum, pa is watching us from heaven right now, and he will spend Christmas with my Heavenly Father and his hosts of angels,' I said, trying to comfort her in any way possible, as I was my own self. Eaglet helped in this more than words can say.
That night I fell asleep, with Eaglet on my bedpost, watching over me like the little angel that he was. I now think he had been sent here for a reason deeper and more mysterious than any other known to us.
The wind had howled like a wolf that night and snow poured madly from the heavens. It would be deep in the morning. Oh well, all the more reason to stay inside the following day. Besides, it would be Christmas, and I wished to spend it with my family, all of them.
I wish that door had been fixed before now. A cold draft always blew through it into the cabin during the winter storms. Eaglet could probably slip through it and leave me, though I desperately hoped that he would not. I had grown rather used to his company.
Before I fell asleep, I stared at the mesmerizing fire. The flames licked at the roof of the fireplace. Blue flames grew and overtook the red and orange. Somehow, they seemed bigger than usual. Oh well, nothing to worry about.
I eventually fell into a deep, restful sleep. Tomorrow would be Christmas! I had plenty to be merry about! What reason would I have for not falling asleep?
I was awakened by frantic chirping of Eaglet in the early morning. I looked up through a strange haze and confusion. An eerie orange glow hung over me like a rain cloud about to burst. I suddenly, much to my own horror as much as Eaglet's, realized the cabin was on fire!
I leaped to my feet and ran the short distance to my mum's bed to rouse her. I frantically had shaken her to full awareness of her surroundings. We both ran for the door, Eaglet hot on our heels.
I tried to push the door open, but the snow the night before was too high, and stopped the door in its own path. There was no way we could fit through the crack, no way for us to gain strength against the cement snow.
Eaglet slipped out through the crack in the jarred door. Oh, why did Eaglet abandon us when we had saved him? One corner of the cabin was engulfed in flame, but that was enough to make me worried.
It was hard to breathe through this strange, hot air. The smoke filled the cabin, and to the point where it filed out of the crack in the jarred door. It was hard to tell what was burning, and what was not through this evil haze.
But as I was later told, Eaglet had flown into someone nearby. The person had thought that a little robin had gone mad, yet Eaglet still did not stop until he got the person in front of the burning cabin. That person even said that Eaglet had chased him to us.
After seeing the burning cabin the person had called to see if anyone was in it and in turn we had called back. Eaglet had then perched on a nearby tree branch while the villager went for help and summoned the fire department.
What was only minutes seemed like hours, or even days while we waited for help. My mother and I had crouched in the corner, next to the cool draft coming from the door, and hid our faces in our shirts, to keep from inhaling the vile air.
'Everything will be fine,' my mum kept telling herself. Though I hoped she was righ, it did no harm to send a prayer to our heavenly Father.
The fire department came within five minutes, for our cabin was relatively close to their station. Within minutes they had put out the fire, but not before it had consumed everything except dad's picture, the angel of the Christmas tree, and Eaglet's binding cloth.
We had been rushed to the hospital, for though we were unscathed, we had inhaled more smoke than we should have. All this time Eaglet waited on that tree branch which survived just outside of our smoldering cabin.
As for the memories and pain in the hospital, I'd rather not remember. I just know the Lord had been looking out for us, and that's all that matters.
Then when we finally were allowed out of the hospital, we found Eaglet still waiting for us. I then assumed that the fire was started because a log had rolled out of the fireplace and onto the wooden floor. The cinders remaining of our cabin were sorry reminders of the cabin's once shabby glory. We had lost everything, or, had we?
Though we had lost almost everything, we had gained much. We had all that money could not buy, like life's valuable lessons. I had learned that we should not be careless, no matter how tired we are. I had learned how quickly you can lose every earthly object you had.
Most importantly, however, I learned that God watches out for you, and that everything happens for a reason. The rescuing of Eaglet, the jarred door, the winter draft, the fire department close by, and the villager who had gone for help were all planned by a Higher Being. I think pa would have been proud that we learned all of this.
I also learned that the Lord watches over us, and protects us. It doesn't matter if we are rich or poor, or less fortunate than others; He loves us all the same.
After this our church helped us raise money for a new home. But in the main time they let us stay at our Father's church. They were so kind to us.
Eventually we raised enough money to build a cabin again. But when we did, we left the door gaping, just in case.
Eaglet was our angel, and always will be. He returned to the pine forest near our cabin, but he still checks on us every day after school. I think he always will.
Thinking back to that Christmas reminds me that we'll always have a guardian angel, and a loving God to watch over us. The memories of the fire and hospital are only hazy dreams, and, perhaps that's what they should remain. What we should always remember is what we learn from the storms of life, and from little robins.