Into the Woods

(by Stephanie Cravens)


Usually I could hear the sounds of Moore, Oklahoma, the bustling city where we lived, but this time the crackling roar of the campfire was all that could be heard. It was relaxing, although perhaps awkward for those who like to fill the silence with some manner of chatter. For my mother and me, it was a much-needed moment in our rocky relationship—just to see the stars together, no fighting or bickering. We hadn’t had a moment like that in years, hadn’t spent time together without some kind of argument or anger over my life choices.


We used to be so close, but lately it felt like no matter what I did, I wasn’t able to make

her feel proud of me. I had messed up what we had. If I had only listened and paid

attention to what she said to me over the years, the little lessons and teachings that I

failed to pick up on—whom to trust or not trust, how my behavior could cause damage if I wasn’t careful. But I couldn’t admit what I had done to her. As a child, I did not think about my actions when I made the decision to take money that wasn’t mine, or to start fights with other kids at school when I knew well enough that I shouldn’t. I acted out, even though I definitely knew well enough the distinction between what was right and what was wrong.


Thinking back on it, I can see my actions for what they were: foolishness and a sense that I knew all that the world already had to offer. I didn’t care who my actions hurt or the fact that having a person’s trust was not something to be taken lightly.


We were practically forced into this camping trip because my father decided to take it upon himself to fix the major problem in our household: the distance between my mother and me.


At first, I had thought, This will not go over well. I was preparing for the ugly fallout as we arrived at the camping site. My mother stepped out of the SUV to grab her things, and there was a tense silence between us. I hopped out after her and grabbed my things from the trunk. As we started to walk along the trail leading to our camping site, the silence seemed thick enough to slice with a knife. Not a word was said as we arrived at our area and assembled our individual tents.


After finishing up with mine, I tried to tune out the awkwardness as my mom bustled around and got the fire going. Not wanting to acknowledge the issue between us just yet, I tried to make myself busy by preparing the ingredients for the stew that we’d be having that night for dinner.


I wanted to go and explore before it got dark, but I knew before anything else happened, we needed to do something, anything really, about our issue. Avoiding the conversation wouldn’t work well. We were here to fix things.


As I sat down near the fire, my mom approached and sat next to me. It seemed that we would be having that conversation sooner than I thought.


“Sera.” I heard her use the pen name I had chosen for myself.


“Yeah?”


“Where did I go wrong? Can you tell me that? What went wrong with us?”


I wasn’t sure I had heard her correctly. What went wrong? What kind of question was that?


“Maybe I’m phrasing it wrong, Sera, but I need to know, sweetie. I need to know what I did wrong for us to be here now. I was so close to my own mother, and yet it seems I failed to be a good mother to you.”


She… she blamed herself?


What?


I looked over to see a sheen in her eyes. She was…crying?


“I don’t understand, Mom,” I said, bowing my head to hide the tears that were starting to

roll down my cheeks. “What do you mean? I was the one who ruined things, I made the

mistakes, I was the troublemaker child who should’ve listened to you instead of dismissing you. How can you possibly think that this, the state of our relationship, is your fault? You didn’t do anything wrong, Mom. It was me.”


I felt my mother grasp my hand and pull me into a hug. Stiffening out of surprise and slight apprehension, I started to pull away, but her hold tightened.


“Sweetie,” I heard her say through her tears.


“You were not the only one who made bad choices and had to face those consequences. As your mother, I should’ve stepped up and made sure that our relationship never got to this stage. I gave up on you when I never should have. And I am so sorry. For all of it. I wish that I could go back, to have the opportunity to say what I should’ve said when you really needed to hear it.”


I felt her straighten up and pull away until only her hands rested on my shoulders.


We were both such a mess, teary faces reflecting in the firelight, while the aroma of our

dinner over the campfire was becoming apparent.


“Sweetheart, let me say what I should’ve said to you back then, what I should’ve said to

you every day.”


Our eyes met. Oh, I missed that look, the loving smile and proud eyes that I had so

wished to see again on her face. The look of a mother’s love. It was right there.


“I love you, sweetheart, and I always will. No matter what you do, or who you decide to

become. Always.”


And there they were: those words I longed to hear. It felt wonderful. I smiled shakily.


“I love you too, Momma.”


I grabbed onto her for one good, tight hug before pulling away. As we looked at each other, I could tell things would get better. She grabbed my hand and pulled us both up off the ground.


“Now, let’s go eat dinner, sweetie.”


Mmm, that stew was starting to smell so delicious.

---

Stephanie Cravens (who sometimes uses the pen name Sera Clover) is a 20-year-old

aspiring writer who lives in Oklahoma. She designs covers for books and journals, and

can be found on Instagram.

Vegetable Stew


1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 1 1/2 c.)

2 stalks celery, sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 1 c.)

8 oz. mushrooms, halved or quartered (depending on size)

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3 T. tomato paste

1/4 c. flour

5 c. vegetable broth

3 bay leaves

1 t. dried thyme

1/2 t. dried sage

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 medium-sized red potatoes, cut into 1-in. chunks (about 1 1/2 c.)

1 c. frozen cut green beans

1/3 c. frozen peas

1/3 c. frozen corn

1/4 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley


In a large pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil.

Sauté onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms for 3 minutes.

Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

Stir tomato paste and flour together, and add to the pot, stirring for 30 seconds.

Add broth, bay leaves, thyme, sage, salt and pepper, stirring well.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add potatoes, and continue simmering for 20 minutes.

Add green beans, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add peas and corn, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Garnish with parsley.