High Hopes by Erica Douglas
Once there was a little old ant. In this case, there were thousands of little old ants.
On the way home from one of our late summer evening walks, my three-year-old noticed a large pile of ants at the edge of the sidewalk. There were thousands of them, all on top of each other, moving as fast as they could. I have no idea what attracted them to that spot, or what they were working so hard and so quickly to get, but they were pretty mesmerizing to watch.
“What are those ants doing, Mommy?” “Why are they there?” “Where are they going, Mommy?”
As with most all “Why, Mommy” questions, “I don’t know, Buddy,” was the only answer I could give.
I watched as my three-year-old and his brother put their hands in the pile of ants as they tried to blow them away, and as they kicked them. Regardless of the pestering of two little boys, those ants scurried right back to what they were doing prior to the abrupt interruptions.
I’ve read before that ants can lift five times their weight. Thus the reason they are often used to symbolize such traits as hard work and determination. For me, as I watched those ants bustling about, I thought of hope and of comfort.
When I was sick, or couldn’t sleep as a kid, my dad would wet a washcloth, put it on my head, and sit at the side of my bed. He wasn’t a singer, he didn’t go around the house humming or anything like that, but there, and at the side of his sick little girl he would sit and sing. He sang to me about that, “Little Old Ant” (which I recently discovered was sung by Frank Sinatra).
After my dad died, a friend told me to feel every feeling. Cry when something makes me sad. Laugh when it’s funny. She encouraged me not to hide in my grief but to live through it. She told me of a time she was in Target and she saw her father’s favorite cookie, and how that made her cry. “Don’t be afraid of those moments,” she said.
Well those ants were my moment. I stood there, surrounded by my family on a beautiful evening, soaking in a scene that would have normally given me shivers. However, those ants, scurrying all about, took me back to the moments as a little girl of lying in bed and finding comfort in the loving acts of my father. How I wish I could bottle that feeling, grab it, hold it for a moment, or for a lifetime.
I never did ask him why he always chose that song to sing. I wonder if it was a favorite of his. I guess I thought I had the time to ask, or more, I don’t think I ever really thought about it until now. Until that moment on the sidewalk, I hadn’t sung that song. I hadn’t been in that memory.
I guess sometimes we don’t realize we’re making memories. Some things just happen because they happen. I’m sure my dad just sang that song because the alternative of reenacting a sports radio conversation wouldn’t have been very calming for his melodramatic daughter who was having trouble falling asleep. He wasn’t trying to make me love that song, or sing it so I can remember it when he was gone. Dad just sang it.
Maybe that’s why I got lost in that moment, why I took an extra long look at those ants, because it brought back a piece of who Dad was, a normal piece. Not some big extravagant gesture, just something special, a piece only I know. That moment, of him sitting at my side, singing a special song, was our moment, our secret of a daddy and his little girl.
After several minutes of us hovered over a little spot on the sidewalk, my husband encouraged us all to move along. Honestly, I could have stayed and watched them longer. As we walked away, I found myself humming the tune of that little old ant and his high hopes.
“What’s that song, Mommy?”
“It’s a song my daddy used to sing to me,” was the only answer I could give.
As I watched my boys use their “super speed” to race home that night, I smiled. I am so thankful my dad was there for me, so thankful that he sat with me in the middle of the night, and so thankful that he knew how to comfort me. I am so blessed that memory was opened for me to experience that night. During such a difficult time, I could feel comforted and hopeful that everything is going to be okay.
I tucked my children into bed that night. I didn’t sing that song, but I prayed. I prayed that I could do this parenting thing as well as my dad. That I would just be there for my kids whenever and whatever the circumstances may be. I prayed for High Hopes!
Formerly a fourth grade teacher, Erica is now a stay-at-home mom to three. She is the author of the blog www.preachteach.com where she reflects on everything from education, to parenting, to faith.