“Home Evening, 1846 Style,” Ensign, Sept. 1987, 51–52
One Sunday soon after we had moved to the Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa, area, my husband and our eight-year-old son, Randy, informed the rest of the family that the home evening activity for the following night was a secret. We were instructed to dress warmly and be ready to leave the house as soon as Dad got home from work. They would give us no other clues.
There was a feeling of excitement in the air as Monday evening approached, but in Randy’s eyes was a look of disappointment. They had forgotten to plan for the change from daylight saving to standard time that had occurred two nights before. It was almost dark when Dad got home. To make matters worse, it was windy and rain was falling in torrents. My husband took me into his confidence and told me of their plans for us to visit Winter Quarters, about fifteen miles to the north.
We decided to go anyway. We all donned boots, coats, and mittens and ran to the car, where Randy announced where we were going, to the delight of his three sisters.
We spent the twenty-minute ride singing pioneer songs and watching the rain splash on the car windows as we sped along. We soon turned off the freeway and drove down a narrow street lit by an occasional street light. At last we arrived.
We stopped at Pioneer Park. Through the wet car windows we could see a marker. Before we got out to read it, Randy told us about some of the events that had taken place there: the hardships the Saints had faced, the bitter cold winter, and the disease that had left six hundred people dead.
When my husband suggested we get out of the car, three-year-old Cynthia began to cry. She said she didn’t want to get out in the wind and the rain, and besides, she was cold! I thought of how pioneer mothers must have felt as they tried to keep their small children warm and dry during that bitter winter of 1846. With a little coaxing, Cynthia agreed to get out. We all huddled together as my husband read the marker: “Winter Quarters Location of the Camps of Israel.” A feeling of pride swept over us as we stood there shivering.
We then walked a few yards into the bare trees of the park. The children were cold, and they wanted to get back into the car. Then I had an idea. I said, “Catherine, would you please gather wood for the fire? Randy, you take the gun and get a rabbit so I can make stew for supper. DeeAnne and Cynthia, will you make up the beds in the wagon, while Dad unhitches the oxen?”
Delighted, they each scampered about pretending to do their various jobs. My husband put his arm around me, and we stood in the cold rain watching our children. Neither of us spoke, but I knew we were both silently thanking our Heavenly Father for our four precious children. Then it was time to get back in the car.
Even though we had our boots on, our toes were numb; but within minutes the car heater had us all toasty warm. As we drove home my husband explained that the Saints usually traveled fifteen to twenty miles a day. It had taken them a full day to travel as far as we could now go in twenty minutes.
Back home, after a warm supper, we knelt for family prayer. A feeling of deep gratitude filled the house and warmed us. We were grateful for our pioneer heritage, and we were especially grateful for our warm clothes and cozy home. We thanked our Father in Heaven more humbly than ever before for those blessings that we had often taken for granted.