“The Video,” Friend, Oct. 1995, 36
Rachel put her key in the lock. Coming home to an empty apartment was the worst part of every day. It wasn’t really empty, but for the three long hours until Mom arrived home from work, it felt that way.
The first time she’d come home to the Mom-less apartment, Rachel had thrown herself on her bed and cried herself to sleep. But now, seven months later, instead of crying each day, she planned something to keep her busy until Mom came home. This helped a little, but down deep she was still afraid to be in the apartment alone.
Today Rachel had a video Mom had borrowed from the Richardsons, a family who lived downstairs. She took the tape out of the box, which was labeled “From Grandma, with love.” She loaded the tape into the VCR on her way to the small kitchen. She could see the TV while she fixed herself a snack.
The video began in the middle of the tape. A man was talking. How boring, Rachel thought. I wonder if there’s anything else on the tape.
She opened a jar of peaches and dished some into a plastic bowl. When she picked up the jar to put it back into the refrigerator, her elbow bumped the bowl of peaches, splattering peach halves all across the floor. The bowl landed upside down in its own puddle of peach juice.
“What a mess!” She glanced over at the TV. The man was still talking: “… young girls, learn from your mothers the important homemaking skills you will use in your own home.”*
Yeah, skills like how not to make a mess when you’re getting a snack, Rachel thought. As she worked, she began to scold herself again. Then the man’s words caught her attention once more: “Now I want to talk to you children who do not feel safe and who are frightened. … Sometimes you may feel all alone. You need to know that even when it seems that no one else cares, your Heavenly Father does, He will always love you. He wants you to be protected and safe.”
Who was this man? His kind eyes and smile sympathized with her and her loneliness. He told a story about Jesus blessing children while angels came down and fire surrounded them. The man continued: “I promise you, dear children, that angels will minister unto you also. You may not see them, but they will be there to help you, and you will feel of their presence.”
The words filled her heart with calm. Maybe it was true. Maybe angels were there to help her. Maybe the calm she felt right now was their presence.
Well, whatever this feeling is, I hope it won’t go away. It’s very nice, Rachel thought as she wiped up the floor.
By the time she finished cleaning up the peaches, she wasn’t hungry anymore, so she returned to the living room.
The man’s talk was over, and a very old man was on—he looked like a great-grandpa. Surrounded by children, he was singing a song Rachel had never heard. He kept repeating the words “Mormon Boy.” Afterward he said to the children, “I love you, and you, and all of you.” Rachel pretended he said it to her too.
Who were those men? Why did they make her feel so good? Were there really angels? What was a “Mormon boy”? Was it a nationality, like being a French boy? Maybe Mom could answer some of her questions.
But Mom was so tired after work that she only wanted to get supper over with and go to bed. Rachel didn’t want to bother her with questions.
After Mom went to bed, Rachel decided to watch the video again. Maybe that same good feeling would return.
Rewinding the tape to the very first, she lined up several dolls on the couch, and flopped down among them.
The man with the kind eyes spoke. “We shall now be pleased to listen to the closing remarks of President Ezra Taft Benson, our beloved prophet, which he has asked me to read. Following the presentation of his message, we shall see a delightful television clip of President Benson singing to the youth, whom he loves.”
Rachel told her dolls, “The grandpa who sings is a prophet!”
“… And as you listen, I pray that you will know that this is a personal message just for you.”
“He’s talking right to us,” Rachel told her companions.
“How I love you! How our Heavenly Father loves you!” were the prophet’s words.
The warmth of the message wrapped around Rachel. And for a moment, she was calm and happy again. From the bedroom, Mom’s voice interrupted. “Rachel! Turn off the TV and go to bed!”
Rachel sighed. To her dolls she said, “Come on, we’ll watch more tomorrow.”
The next morning Rachel tried to talk to her mom about the videotape. “Mom, are there really angels?”
“I’ve never seen any.” Mom still seemed tired.
“Are there prophets?”
“Oh, maybe there were back in Bible days. There aren’t any now.”
“Oh.” She decided to say no more about the video for a while.
That day after school, and the next several days as well, Rachel dreaded coming home from school until she remembered the talk. Sometimes she kept the talk on in the background as she did her chores or her homework. Other times she arranged her dolls on the couch and sat with them, listening.
Rachel was happy when she listened to the talk, although there was a lot she didn’t understand. What were Latter-day Saints? What was a Book of Mormon? The prophet wanted them to read it. What about Primary? Sacrament meeting? He wanted her to attend, but she didn’t know what they were. He also said to pray, something Rachel and her Mom hadn’t done in years, although they used to back when Daddy was still alive.
Rachel began praying each night, which made it easier to keep hold of the special feeling the talk gave her.
Mom noticed a difference in Rachel. “Something good must be happening at school. You’re a lot happier lately.”
Before bedtime on Friday, Mom had news that abruptly ended Rachel’s happiness: The Richardsons were being transferred.
“Would you return their video in the morning?” Mom asked. “They’re leaving tomorrow.”
“But that’s so soon!” Rachel exclaimed. “I wasn’t exactly done with it.”
“Well, honey, it’s just a video. I’ll get another one after work tomorrow.”
“But I want this tape.”
“What’s on it?” asked Mom.
“I don’t know what it’s called. Their grandma copied it for them off the TV.”
“If you find out what it is, maybe we can copy it from the TV ourselves sometime,” Mom suggested.
What a simple solution! “That’s a great idea, Mom,” Rachel said. “Thanks! Good night.”
The next morning Rachel woke up extra early so that she could watch the video before returning it. She closed her eyes tight, trying hard to memorize all her favorite parts. She fast-forwarded the tape to President Benson’s singing and his words, “I love all of you.” She whispered, “I love you, too,” rewound the tape, and ran downstairs to the Richardsons’.
Their door was wide open. Two men were carrying a sofa from the nearly empty apartment. Rachel followed them out to a truck parked at the curb. “Where are the Richardsons?”
“They’ve gone ahead in their car,” one of the men answered. “Didn’t you get to say good-bye to them?”
Rachel shook her head. Holding up the video, she added, “I was supposed to give them this. It belongs to them.” She hesitated. “And I wanted to ask them the name of the program on it so that I could tape it off the TV sometime.”
“Well, I’ll see them in just a few hours. I’ll give it to them and ask them to write and tell you the name of it.”
“Thank you very much.”
A week passed. Each afternoon before climbing the stairs to her apartment, Rachel checked the mailbox for the Richardsons’ letter. Every day it grew harder to recall her favorite parts of the talk. Every night she prayed that the Richardsons’ reply would come.
When Rachel woke up Saturday morning, she said to her dolls, “I just know the letter will come today!”
As she and her mom spent the morning doing housework, Rachel kept peeking out the window. “I’m waiting for the mail,” she explained. “The Richardsons are going to send me a letter that tells the name of their video so we can tape it off the TV.”
“They may not have had time to write yet, what with moving and unpacking and all,” Mom said gently.
Rachel’s heart sank. She let the curtain fall back into place and began folding clothes. Mom was probably right; the Richardsons would be too busy to write.
In spite of this, Rachel checked out the window once more. “The mail truck’s pulling away!” She ran out the door and down the steps to the cluster of mailboxes. Unlocking theirs, she reached inside for the mail.
“A bill, an advertisement, another bill—that’s all! That can’t be all!”
“Is something wrong?” said a voice behind her.
“Can we help you?” another voice joined in.
“Oh, I was hoping for something to come in the mail today, but it didn’t, after all.” Rachel turned around to face two strangers. Schoolteachers? She thought. Why are they wearing name tags?
“Do you live here?” one of the ladies asked.
“Do you know the Richardsons?”
Again Rachel nodded.
“We stopped by to visit with them, but apparently they’re gone.”
“They moved last week,” Rachel said.
“Where did they go?”
“I don’t know, but my mom might be able to find out. You can come ask her.”
While talking to the ladies, Rachel had glimpsed “Latter-day Saints” on the little name tags! “Do you know a really old man, a prophet, named Ezra Taft Benson? I heard a talk by him, but someone else read it for him, and I wonder …”
The ladies smiled at her, then at each other as they followed Rachel up the stairs to her apartment.