Not a Sunday School
Only a minute, that’s all it took. A shiny brown rock caught my attention. Then it hopped. I squatted to inspect it. It hopped again. I reached to catch the frog and it scrambled under some leaves and then disappeared into the mud.
‘Hey, Richard, look!’ I said. ‘A frog.’
The wind howled.
I looked up. Where was he? My brother also had vanished into the bush.
I gazed up at the giant gum trees scratching their branches against the cobalt blue sky. Leaves rustled as a cool breeze ferried through the scrub.
‘Richard!’ I stomped my foot. ‘Stop hiding and come out now!’
Silence except for the wind moaning.
Every year our church had a Sunday School picnic in Belair National Park in the Adelaide foothills. Fun and games followed by a potluck lunch, two trestle tables groaning under good German food of which our churches’ ancestors from Prussia would be proud.
While our parents reclined on their deck-chairs or woollen blankets, nursing their full stomachs of too much cheese sandwiches, bratwurst and apple kuchen, my brother Richard and I asked if we could go for a walk.
‘Don’t go too far,’ Mum said.
‘Don’t get lost,’ Dad said. ‘Look after your little sister.’
‘Yes, I will,’ Richard who had just turned ten said. I was five.
Richard grabbed my hand and we followed the path into the bush. We wanted to hunt tadpoles and yabbies; we just had to find the creek where these creatures resided.
We came to a clearing. Richard had stood there, hands on his hips. ‘Now, where’s the creek?’
I shrugged and looked down. That’s when I saw the rock-frog.
I scanned my surroundings. Straggly looking bushes barred any other escape from the clearing except the path that had led us to the clearing. I strained my eyes to see Richard but he was not on that path. Blackberry bushes with their prickly tendrils that tear the clothes and shred the skin, weaved in and out of the plant-life, forming a fence, choking the plants this weed had invaded.
The sun made a fleeting appearance with a break in the clouds. Then a dark mass of cloud shrouded the land in shadow. I shivered as a blanket of cold air fell on me. I wore only cotton shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. I hugged myself and trembled.
The wind whistled through the scrub.
‘Richard, where are you? I’m scared.’
The wind moaned like a ghost in the night. I crouched and gripped my knees. ‘Mummy!’ I cried.
The wind roared through the clearing. It whipped up every leaf and twig in its rage and spun the bits round and round. I screamed and ran back along the path that took us here. This path must lead back to the oval and the Sunday School picnic, I assumed. I’ll go back, then.
I jogged along the track. Stones gouged into my soft sandshoes. Ruts tripped me up. I fell and grazed my knee. Rain plopped into the silty ground. I ran further down the path, the rain dumping on me. Hands over my head, I searched for shelter. A hole in a tree, a hollow log, a thick bush…anything, as the rain drenched me.
Then as quick as it came, the rain petered to a stop. I staggered along the track that seemed to go on forever and to nowhere, just bush and more bush.
‘Richard! Mummy! Daddy!’ I strained my voice calling again and again. When my voice became a squeak, I whimpered, ‘Where are you? Where am I?’
A grey kangaroo bounded in front of me. I stopped crying and watched as the roo thumped off into the scrub. When the thumping had died away, I stamped my foot and shouted, ‘Why can’t you show me where to go, God? It’s a Sunday School picnic, where are you?’
An emu darted out of the bush. I was sure it was one; bird looked big and flightless enough and wore a wad of brown-grey scruffy feathers on its body, had a long neck and a small head with no ears, but had big bulging eyes. The emu stopped on the path and glared at me.
I stepped back. I didn’t like the look the emu was giving me. The emu hooted at me. I took another step back. I bumped into something—a tree trunk perhaps.
‘Hey! Watch where you’re walking!’ Richard’s high pitched voice said.
I turned around. ‘Richard!’ I wrapped my arms around him. ‘You’re here!’
‘Well, of course I am.’
‘Watch out for the emu—I mean—it looked like it was about to attack.’
I looked back. The emu was gone.
I faced my brother. ‘Where were you? Where did you go?’
‘It wasn’t me who wandered off, it was you.’
‘No, it was you.’
‘No, you,’ I said and then pummelled his chest. ‘You ran off and hid. You were playing tricks on me.’
Did I detect a smirk hidden behind an effort to look serious? I kicked my brother. ‘You did!’
We walked back to the oval. One car, our FJ Holden, was the only car left in the carpark. Rain had started falling and we rushed to the car. Dad pulled me into the back seat. He showed his love and concern for the lost being found, as a man of his time did in the 1960’s, by giving me a smack. ‘Now don’t ever get lost again, understand?’
I resolved to take more care not to get distracted by frogs that pretend to be rocks.
In the Parable of the Lost Sheep in the Book of Matthew, the shepherd rejoices over finding the one lost sheep. I’m sure my father was rejoicing when he found me when I was lost, but he was human and upset, and he assumed I had deliberately wandered off. After all, I tried hard to be good but failed at it and was always getting into strife. So he disciplined me as per previous performance.
God knows us, He knows our story, He listens and knows the truth. I believe God would, as Jesus says at the end of the Lost Sheep Parable: “In the same way (rejoicing) your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones be lost.” —Matthew 18:14
And I believe God did answer my prayer. He looked after me and he helped my family find me.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Bush near Iron Bank, Adelaide Hills © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2009