We ran to Chattanooga this weekend to try to rescue what was left of Spring Break from the clutches of BlarghFest ’13. Today, atop Lookout Mountain, I found that opportunity to do a kindness for a stranger in memory of Richard.
Ruby Falls was the big destination for today–we’re kinda cave geeks in this family. After the journey into the depths of the cave to see the majesty of an underground waterfall (totally worth the hike and the price), we took the kids up to the rooftop play area to get some wiggles out before the drive home. Vivi ran straight for the play ground with Carlos toddling right behind. He stalled out at the staircase and just as I had scooped him up, a young girl came barreling down the steps and ran into us. She apologized and I told her we were fine. Then she stood up really straight and added, “Be cautious at the top of the steps–it’s slippery.” Her demeanor and sincerity impressed me. Then I noticed her bright yellow Girl Scout t-shirt. No wonder!
I hovered over the kids for a while then sat down in the gemstone panning area to enjoy the cool breeze and the burble of the dirty water sloshing through the troughs. The same girl appeared again with two of her friends. They were searching the wire trays for chips of stone that other people had left behind. Her friends lost interest and wandered off, but she found delight in the smallest chips of quartz and calcite. I was sitting near the gemstone identification poster, so our paths crossed again. She asked my opinion on a couple of discoveries so we talked rocks for a while. She told me her grandfather sometimes finds arrowheads on the farm. Except she said, “air-a-heads.”
Her troop was from Forsyth, Georgia. They had driven six hours to get to Chattanooga. Then she totally put me under her spell when she said, “Really! It’s the TRIP OF A LIFETIME!” A gleeful traveler, nine years old! A girl finding beauty in things that others discarded as “not pretty enough.” Her fist was getting full with all the lovely chips of treasure that she had found on her trip of a lifetime. I told her they had bags inside to hold the stones but she looked skeptical when I said “gift shop,” as if she had already been told that it was off limits. We parted ways again.
Vivi asked if we could search for stones. I went into the gift shop and bought the $10 bag of dirt and got 3 little “treasure” bags for the discoveries. When we were getting set up, the Girl Scout was still searching for chips but stopped to listen to me as I showed Vivi how to wash away the dirt and uncover the gemstones. And that’s when I felt Richard tap me on the shoulder. I invited the girl to join us and for five minutes–until the dirt ran out–the three of us ooohed and aaaahed over the riches we discovered. I gave her a treasure bag for her chips and for the stones that she had found. She said, “Thank you–that was really nice,” and I answered “My pleasure–I think Girl Scouts are cool.”