We all have our favorite family stories we love to share when we get together around a dinner table. Here is one of my personal favorites.
It happened several years ago during a family vacation to the Yosemite National Park. We decided to take a hike to the top of Nevada Falls. For some reason I decided that my five year old daughter Nicky was old enough to take on this six-mile roundtrip with elevation of almost 6,000 feet. She proved me wrong half way up the trail when she stopped, clammed her little hands around my neck, and refused to take another step.
At first carrying her did not seem to be a big deal, but after 45 minutes of climbing steep slopes, I realized that I needed to find a way to get her off my back.
“Baby, would you like to see a bear?” I asked. “You know, there is a little bear living in the woods. If we walk fast enough, we might see it before it gets dark.” Her eyes got wide open. She took the bait. Nicky jumped off, and ran in front of me for the rest of the hike, all the way to the top of the falls, and then all the way back to the trailhead in the valley. By the end of the day she could barely drag her little feet, but with her hopes of seeing a little bear just around the next corner, she kept going strong.
It was an incredible day. The view from the top of the falls was priceless. Tired, but excited, we got back to the Yosemite Village and crashed into the only pizza place that was still open. Hungry after a long and strenuous hike, I was so busy munching a piece of a pie that it took me a moment to notice that Nicky wasn’t eating. She was sitting quietly, staring at an untouched slice of pizza. “You lied to me,” she said when she caught my eyes. “There was no bear in the woods,” she said, and her eyes filled with tears.
My heart skipped a beat and then sunk into my tired feet. My incentive worked to get my baby girl to take on a great challenge, but at the same time it broke her trust in me. I put my plate away, took her by the hand, and went outside, looking for a way to redeem myself. All of a sudden, she pulled her hand out and yelled: “Papa look, there is our bear!” She was pointing at a little bear cub that was staring back at us from just a few feet away. Next thing I knew, she was chasing it through the parking lot while I was desperately trying to catch up with her, praying for the mama bear not to show up.
It all ended well. The cub ran away, I was redeemed, and Nicky was absolutely satisfied. It’s been several year since then, but every time she sees a picture of Yosemite, she proudly points at the highest mountain and says, “I got up there all by myself when I was little, and I saw a real bear too.” I think she will remember that day over all the presents that we would ever be able to give her.
Moments like this stay with us forever. I encourage you, too, to take time and make some memories with your loved ones this summer. I hope it will help you find your next adventure and give you another story to share around a dinner table.