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How a Guardian Snow Angel Saved Her

She was struggling through the snow to get home. Then she heard a mysterious voice commanding her to keep going.

A snow angel appears next to a girl on a sled; Illustration by Kim Johnson

Hours before dawn, I awoke to a magical sound: the crunching metallic clatter of rolling tires outfitted with snow chains. It’s snowing! I thought. I leaped out of bed and ran to the window. Beneath the glow of the streetlamp, our road and yard in Raleigh, North Carolina, were blanketed with pristine white snow. School would be closed today—no question—and I was going to make it the best day ever.

My friend Peggy called when it was daylight. “Bring your sled,” she ordered. “A bunch of us are meeting in the woods above Cedar Creek.”

The woods were only a block behind our house, but I wondered if they’d be too dense for sledding. “Cedar Creek?” I repeated to be sure.

“Yep, that’s the spot. See you in an hour!” Peggy said and hung up.

I inhaled a bowl of cereal, threw on my snow clothes and called goodbye to my mother. Dad was a traveling salesman who was home only on the weekends. My grandmother was resting in her room. My sister had her own plans with a friend, including a sleepover. Perfect, I thought. I’d have the whole day to myself.

By the time I was outside, pulling my sled around the block, the sky had cleared to a brilliant blue and the snow glistened on the needles of the towering pines. I heard whoops and yells coming from the woods above the creek. I was pretty shocked when I saw who Peggy was sledding with. The two of us usually did our best to avoid Nicky and Larry. But today the boys had carved out a few challenging sled runs around the steep bowl of a tree-covered hill.

I watched the three of them maneuver their way down the death-defying trails. “C’mon. Bring your sled over here,” Nicky said. “This run is the best.”

I took his advice and with a deep breath, plopped down on my sled, trying to work up my courage. A grown-up would most likely say it was too dangerous, but out here on my own…

“I’ll help you,” Larry said. He shoved me hard from behind.

I shrieked as my sled shot forward at breakneck speed. Grabbing the rope, I steered the sled around huge pines as I barreled down the slope into the small meadow at the base. That meadow was all there was to stop me from crashing into the creek. My eyes opened wide. I pulled up on the rope. My sled slowed to a stop. I had made it—and I couldn’t wait to do it again!

All day we careened downhill, belting out “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,” and other cartoon songs as we tramped back up to the top. I stopped counting our runs. We were having so much fun, we forgot about lunch. It was late afternoon and starting to get dark when we finally thought about the time.

“So long,” we called to each other as we headed off in different directions. “Best sledding day ever!”

Walking home alone, a new reality set in. The temperature seemed to fall as fast as the disappearing winter sun. I decided to cut through neighbors’ yards instead of hauling my sled on the icy road. My shortcut wasn’t much easier. Struggling through foot-deep snow, I suddenly felt the effects of a full day of sledding. Fatigue crept over my body and mind. My clothes and hair were drenched, and I shivered from exertion and cold. I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since that bowl of cereal.

“This is impossible,” I muttered. The deep snow was now covered in a thin layer of ice, and my sled was getting heavier by the second.

It was a relief when I finally plodded into the Brooks’s backyard. Just two houses away from home, I thought. But those two houses might as well have been two miles. I couldn’t force another foot forward. Dropping onto my sled was a deliriously inviting idea.

“I’ll just rest here for a minute,” I told myself. “Just for a minute.”

I could see Mrs. Brooks at her kitchen window. It was a comforting sight, even though she couldn’t possibly see me freezing in the dark. But it relaxed me enough that I curled up on my sled, rested my head on my arm, closed my eyes….

“Wake up!”

I opened my eyes and lifted my head. The female voice that commanded me was loud and firm. I looked around the yard—nobody was there. No one except Mrs. Brooks, who could still be seen in her kitchen.

“Who’s there?” I called out. No answer. I must have been dreaming, I decided, and lowered my head.

“Get up! Right now!” the lady insisted. She didn’t sound angry, but her tone was urgent—like my mother might sound if I overslept for school.

I forced myself to sit up. I wanted to tell this noisy woman to let me sleep. But what woman? Where? Even in the darkness, I could see I was the only living soul in the Brooks’s backyard. But someone wasn’t going to allow me to have a moment’s peace.

I pulled myself up and reached for the rope of my sled. That’s when it hit me: Who was here to help me? Mrs. Brooks would never hear me if I called out. Dad was working out of town. My sister was at a friend’s. Grandma wouldn’t notice my absence, and Mother probably thought I was already safe in my bedroom, worn out from a day of activity. Not one person in this earthly realm was concerned about me or would ever think to come looking for me here. I forced myself to make it the rest of the way home.

Nobody noticed when I finally dragged my wet, weary body through the front door. My family didn’t know I was in danger, and I didn’t know enough to worry about hypothermia. But God knew it all and sent a guardian snow angel to protect me.

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