Growing up, she couldn't believe her guardian angel existed. Years later her son discovered a clue...
Posted in , Dec 17, 2009
Time can change the way you see a place.
Even the places that are most familiar.
I was walking down to the stream I’d crossed every day of my childhood. But now I was a mother with two young sons.
John and Peter rushed ahead, eager to explore Mommy’s old stomping grounds. “Don’t run so far ahead!” I called as they raced down the grassy slope.
Too bad so much of it had changed. I hardly recognized the area. Land development had swallowed up my aunt’s old house and my grandparents’ farm. The orchard, the beehives, the fields of melons and tomatoes were now taken over by asphalt and stores. Only my parents’ property remained untouched, if threatened—a few acres of isolated woods holding back the urban sprawl.
I caught up and took John and Peter by the hand. The boys stumbled over brambles. “When I was your age this path was clear because we all walked it so much,” I explained to them. “It’s sure not the same anymore.”
It wasn’t just the landscape that was different. I was different too, and in surprising ways. Just my being here was proof.
As a teenager I’d rebelled against a strict upbringing. Too much hard work, too little spending money, too many rules—at home, at school, at church. Too many things I was expected to do and believe just because adults said so.
I couldn’t wait to leave it all behind and do things my way. At college I stopped going to church and focused on fun as much as my studies. I got married young—too young—and thought I’d never have a reason to look back.
But things hadn’t turned out the way I planned. When my marriage ended it was my parents who were there to take me in while I put my life back together.
Now that I’d matured, remarried and had children of my own, all those lessons about hard work, saving money and God’s love made sense. Life experience had taught me the things I was too young to understand as a child. They’d taught me to appreciate what I had and to thank God for it. Now I wanted to teach my sons the lessons I’d once resisted.
“Look, Mommy! There’s a bridge!” said John.
I followed his gaze and winced. I recognized the bridge just fine. It stood strong across the stream where I used to wade. On the other side of the stream was the hill that had once led to my grandparents’ farm. Now it was littered with trash and abandoned grocery carts from the big box store that stood at the top.
As I led my sons to the water, in my mind I saw the land the way it used to be, with green grass and tall trees of my childhood. “This was my favorite place to go when I was young,” I told the boys. “Every evening, just before dinner my mother would call, ‘Who’s taking the newspaper over to Babci?’ I’d shout, ‘I will!’ and start down the path.”
“But why didn’t your grandmother have her own newspaper to read?” Peter asked, his brow wrinkling up.
“We didn’t need to buy two papers,” I said, thinking how pleased my thrifty mother would be if she could hear me now. “My parents read the paper in the morning, and my grandparents read it at night. Delivering that paper was the highlight of my day. Sometimes I played along the way, or splashed in the stream, or just listened to the birds in the trees. Then I crossed over that bridge and went up the hill where Babci was waiting with a hug.”
“Can we play in the stream too?” asked Peter, looking at the water.
Dipping my toes in for old times’ sake seemed like a good idea. There was no trash in the stream that I could see, only on the hill. “Okay,” I said. “But stay close to me.”
The boys splashed in, squealing about the smooth rocks and cool water. No matter how it changes, I still love this place.
“Can we go up on the bridge?” asked John. “Like you used to do?”
“Sure,” I said. “Your grandfather built that bridge with his father.”
“Wow!” said John, his eyes wide.
As a child I had taken my family’s accomplishment for granted. Now I treasured a hundred memories of it: Skipping across to Babci’s house. Stopping at the spot right in the middle, where I knew no one could see me, just to watch the water flow underneath my feet. Running across it back home to escape a coming rainstorm. Something else I remembered about crossing that bridge.
At school, Sister had taught us about guardian angels. “Everyone has one,” she said.
“How come I’ve never seen my guardian angel?” I asked.
“Your guardian angel doesn’t always want to be seen,” Sister said. “But never doubt: She’s with you always, whether you see her or not.”
Walking to Babci’s house, I often thought about that angel. Did she see me when I was being naughty? When I was sleeping? When I was crossing the bridge? When I was standing at the spot right in the middle where no one else could see me? Was she with me while I stood watching the water flow? Once I turned around quick and looked behind me.
“I want to see what you look like,” I said, turning back to the water. “Why won’t you let me see you? Why won’t you talk to me?”
Spinning around again, I hoped to catch sight of my angel before she disappeared. Back and forth I walked across the bridge, stopping every few steps to turn around and catch her. But each time my angel was too fast.
Maybe guardian angels were just one of those things grown-ups said without explanation. Like the rules I had to follow at school and the chores I had to do at home just because a grown-up said so.
Well, if I couldn’t see her, I wasn’t going to believe in her. I stomped across the bridge to Babci’s house. Babci was someone I could see with my own eyes.
The boys splashed me and broke my reverie. I shook my head remembering how stubborn I used to be. How many times had I tested Sister’s lesson, daring my guardian angel to show herself. I’d not seen her to this day, but I couldn’t have made it this far without her by my side. Or right behind me. I looked over my shoulder. You’re still too fast for me!
“Mommy?” John tugged at the hem of my shorts. “Mommy, I found this in the water. What is it?”
He dropped a piece of pottery into my hand. It was curved, probably from an old teapot, stained and cracked from being in the stream for who knew how long.
But there was a piece of a scene on it. I could make out a young girl with a pouty expression. Behind her was a man with a kindly smile. His arms were stretched out protectively toward her, his sleeves hanging down on either side. Like angel wings, I thought.
“Did you find any more pieces like this?” I asked John.
He shook his head. “Nope, just a bunch of pebbles.”
I tucked the pottery shard into my pocket, sure that my guardian angel had meant for me to have it. Of course she had been with me on the bridge that day, as she was and is every day. Just as my sons’ guardian angels would be with them throughout their lives. I would tell them this was true.
And not just because an adult said so.
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