Illinois winter. 1999.
There is nothing more rewarding than to see your children come of age and too often, these times are fleeting like sun reflected ripples rolling across the water. As a father I cherish each and every one and here is Gabriel’s story.
One morning after a mid winter storm I thought my sons would get a kick out of making snow men in the yard so I ran down the hallway and burst with excitement through the boy’s bedroom door.
“Guys time to get up we have things to do.”
Gabe and Kevin four and ten shuffled in their beds grumbling a bit and attempted to go back to sleep.
“Hey, I’m serious it snowed last night and we need to get out there and make snow men.”
The boys slowly rolled out of bed and when they were able to stand without stumbling I walked over and together we looked out the window. To their amazement they saw three feet of snow covering the yard, in their excitement they didn’t take the time to get dressed before they ran down the hall to the kitchen, the boys in their skivvies opened the sliding glass door to the back deck of our house. Kevin had seen snow before so he knew the fun to be had, but this was Gabe’s first time and the look of amazement on his face will always remain with me.
Gabe was reveling in his new discovery as Kevin and I decided to have a little adventure. I challenged him to a snow angel contest. Being skeptical for all of ten seconds he agreed to the challenge, as long as I went first.
Down to my boxers now, Kevin looked at me sheepishly with eyes wide open and a quizzical frown on his face. I carefully positioned myself, and with a quick breath I fell backwards with abandon maintaining my composure while I slowly made an angel in the snow. The boys had broad smiles on their faces with a bit of dubiety in their glaze that made it all worth the shock of icy shivers crawling down and up my body.
Once my angel was done I suggested to Kevin he should get a few towels before he made his angel. With towels now in hand Kevin carefully positioned himself next to my angel and slowly fell into the fluffy white layers covering the ground. There he was, lying flat and feeling that first shock I felt only moments before. I encouraged him to start moving his hands and feet to form his angel and like Jumping Jacks he made the fastest snow angel in history before he bounced up and shot like a bolt into the warm comfort of the towel I had waiting for him.
“Pretty good there Mr.”
I was drying him off and getting him warm when Gabe insisted he wanted to make his angel next to ours.
“I don’t know Gabe. I don’t think you’ll like it very much.”
He looked at me confidently and with sparkles in his eyes he said “I can do it”
With trepidation I positioned him next to our angels and with all the bravery he could muster he fell back into the ground. For what seemed like agonizing minutes he just laid there with a look on his face, a face I had only seen once before when the doctor stitched his forehead after running into a cart at the supermarket.
“Dad what have I done?” Then he started screaming.
“Gabe shhh, it’s ok.”
The two of us stood there in shock for a moment and Kevin told Gabe to start moving his arms and legs. Gabe just laid there in his underwear, screaming and no doubt waking up the neighborhood. I was about to pull him out of the snow when we heard soft footsteps hurriedly coming our way.
“Kevin we’re in big trouble now.” I muttered.
We turned around and all I could say was “Hi honey!”
“What on earth are you two doing to Gabriel?”
“Hmmm, we’re making snow angels.”
“You guys are unbelievable!” She got Gabe out of the snow and bundled him in one of the towels. “What are you guys thinking? He’s only four.”
I thought to myself “you wouldn’t understand.”
Kevin was not helpful letting his mother know that Gabe wanted to do it and we told him to shoosh up.
After discussing what not to do we had showers and the breakfast was on me. I had a lot of atonement to do. After we finish eating the littlest guy chimed up and told his mother he wanted to make his own angel. I avoided eye contact and hoped Kevin did not say anything. Mom did everything to discourage Gabe but he was not having any of it.
Finally she looked at me and said quietly “See what you started?”
The only thing I could say with a weak smile was “we’d better get some dry towels.”
I tried to convince Gabe that it would be better if he put on some warm cloths and a jacket first, but the little man was firm that doing that wouldn’t make a good angel.
He took his clothes off and proclaimed he was ready. I opened the sliding door and he walked out gingerly where the snow was lightest then he carefully positioned himself and made his first snow angel without a squeak.
Gabriel is now one of the boys.