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Snow Angels

December 22, 2011

I am dredging up a seasonal tidbit from the archives  –  one of my favorites – just in time for the holidays. And I am breaking all the blogging rules on this one, refusing to edit it down. So pull up a chair and a hot cup of cocoa. (Plus, I know you’re on vacation anyway, so relax!)  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

A few weeks ago our family spent the weekend watching some old videos from when the kids were little. Back then I had filmed a series of “a day in the life” routines, so that I could capture my little girls on tape and always remember the way it was. I had recorded moments of them singing, playing, laughing, running, and riding bikes. I even caught on tape a bit of naughtiness – some fighting and crying – which is actually cute and funny when you play it back years later.

Those little girls were so precious. They seemed so happy. So did my wife and I. There’s something about reminiscing that makes you gloss over, and even forget, all the stress and messiness and emotional chaos that was also going on at the same time.

There’s one scene in particular that will stick with us forever. It is filmed in the dead of winter, and there’s been a heavy snowfall. In fact, it’s a snow-day for the entire family – no school, no work! So, like all the snow-bound families waking up to the delights of an unexpected day off, we celebrate by bundling up our little girls, who were probably about 3 and 6 years old at the time. We take them out to play in the winter wonderland.

It’s eerily quiet in the neighborhood, other than the crunching of boots on the snow and the sing-song of little-girl chatter. The roads are not plowed yet, so there are no cars driving by. The snow is a deep, fresh powder, and the afternoon sun has begun to peer through the clouds in the sky.

I’m videotaping the girls sledding down the little hill in our yard, with their little snowsuits and saucers. Wee! Down they go, only to face the surprising immediacy and drudgery of walking all the way back up the hill while carrying their saucer, along with the twenty pounds of snowsuit insulation. They look like little astronauts in their spacesuits, climbing in slow motion.

They make it back to the top and slide down again. As we are watching the second climb back to the top of the hill, suddenly, out of nowhere, two beautiful fluffy white dogs appear, wandering into the scene. They are walking up the street towards our house. As they get closer, they spot the girls and begin to make their way up the little hill in our yard to greet them. What was odd was that these dogs were not from our neighborhood. We had never seen them before.

They were gorgeous. We didn’t know what kind they were, but they looked like they could have arrived directly from the North Pole. Or maybe some kind of Magical Christmas Dogs had fallen out of a snow globe in the sky. They were pure, snow-white identical twin Samoyeds — big, regal, serene, and stunningly beautiful dogs.

These happy beasts calmly approach our daughters, who are now sitting on their snow saucers at the top of the hill, to pay a little visit. The Samoyeds sit down next to the girl-children, panting, smiling. The dogs get comfortable, as if this was their destination all along, like they’ve journeyed all the way from the frigid tundra of Siberia to finally meet the little Moore girls. They are calm, friendly, and convey a sense of temporary protection over them.

The regal presence of these stately animals immediately transforms the scene from a suburban lawn into a magical Narnia Fairy Tale. My daughters, of course, are enamored by these big fluffy new friends on a snowy day. We ooh and ahh while the girls embrace the dogs, digging their hands and faces deep into the fur. They snuggle for a while.

The twin Samoyeds bring a sense of serenity, tranquility and a strange nurturing presence to the scene. Watching the videotape, you can hear my wife and I talking softly in the background with a quiet wonder as I’m recording the scene: “Where did those dogs come from? I don’t know, but they’re beautiful! I’ve never seen that kind of dog before! Look! They’re as big as the girls are! Can you believe how they just walked right up and sat down next to them like that? Look how the girls love them! They’re so sweet!”

We stop talking, and it’s very quiet. In the stillness and silence, all that you hear is the sound of the snow blowing in the light winter breeze, and the girls hugging the dogs. We just watch for a while, taking it in. Then, those dogs turn their attention from the girls and look directly into the camera. Right into our eyes, like they had some kind of secret. Some ancient wisdom in their face was saying that they knew all about us, that they’ve been watching us. They were just checking in.

No one said anything.

After a few minutes the dogs decide to get up and leave, just as randomly as they arrived. But there is not another person in sight. Nobody is walking the street with a leash. No master calling their pets back inside. They just run off and disappear into the woods. We never saw those dogs again.

I tell the girls that these were God’s angels visiting us.

And I really believe it.

Reading through the journals I kept during that period, I realized we were going through some tough times. Some days felt like the world was going to crash in on us. I was trying to establish myself in my career and was working through some brutal struggles with my job. We had just moved to a new community and didn’t know anyone. We were miles and miles away from family and friends. My wife had been hammering away at a graduate degree that, at times, seemed like it would kill her before it would get finished.

We were going through the usual growing pains of marital and relationship issues that come with time and with kids. We were isolated, stressed, working 60-hour weeks, trying to maintain a good family life and keep it all together.

But it’s funny that as we watched ourselves on TV that day, we all wanted to go back there, back to that time. I wanted to reach in to the screen, and say, “Hang in there, guys, it’s all going to be just fine. You’ll see! You’re doing great.”

And the angels came to let us know that God was there with us, too.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2011 10:13 pm

    Oh.My.Goodness. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story, Bradley. Angels, indeed! Arriving just on time, seems to me, reminding us of a.) God’s abiding – and often surprising – presence with us in the messes of daily life, and b.) our own inability to see into the future when we’re in the midst of those same messes. But your wonderful longing to reach into those pictures and encourage your younger selves reminds me of my 22-month-old granddaughter. When she comes to your home on Wednesdays and Fridays, one of the first things she asks to do is to pull out my laptop and look at, “pixures, pixures.” Then when she sees her sister or her cousins, she cups her sweet little hands, leans toward the screen and says, “I pick her up! I pick him up.” Lately, she has added to that this sweetness when she sees herself on the screen: (Her name is Lillly) “Oh! It’s Rirry! She so cute! I love her!” And she plants a big ol’ smackeroo on the screen. How I hope she always feels that way when she looks at herself! And how lovely that you can now look at older pictures and see the beauty that was there all the while. Have a Merry Christmas!

    (Did you know that it’s ‘snowing’ on your blog? Absolutely perfect for today’s post!)

  2. December 22, 2011 10:14 pm

    Well, of course! She actually comes to OUR home, not yours. :>)

  3. December 23, 2011 9:17 am

    I loved this last year. I love it even more this year. Maybe because of where we are.

    Please, God, send in the Samoyeds!

  4. December 23, 2011 9:20 am

    “Hang in there” — a matter of perspective from living.

    I love this, so much!

  5. December 23, 2011 10:10 am

    I think the same thoughts sometimes when I think back about the past. For me, music does it. I can hear songs that used to encourage me and keep me going through trials of the past. And here I am on the other side, amazed at how things have worked out.

  6. December 30, 2011 9:40 am

    Bradley,

    You have a gift for storytelling.
    I enjoy every word.
    And your descriptions of course, are, marvelous.

    Matthew

  7. December 30, 2011 2:56 pm

    I too love the story. And I also love to look back. Like you, I keep journals. This time of year I tend to go back and read them. I am amazed and humbled by what we’ve been through as a family. I love to go back and revisit the best of times — which at the time seemed like the worst of times — and remember each moment of grace.

  8. January 5, 2012 7:14 am

    I have always wanted a Sam but was never able to swing buying one. Thanks for the great story also Bradley. I love good memories that involve my 2 (now adult) daughters.

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