As a small child, there was a tiny picture at my bedside of the angel Gabriel speaking to the Virgin Mary. This was very early in my life before I knew or thought much about angels. I knew Gabriel because of my Catholic upbringing. And Michael. If felt like the majority of little boys I knew were named for him, and not a one of them seemed much like an angel to me.
It was in this very innocent time, I had my first dream of angels. Perhaps, it was more of a night terror. It had to be the early 70s, perhaps 1975 at the time. If I cared, I could research the old microfiche of the local newspaper to find the exact date of this nightmare/dream/vision – whatever it was.
I woke in the middle of the night to one of those heavy rain storms that come in the summer in the South. I was frightened so I went to turn on my night light, but the power was out. I hated being alone in the dark and for whatever reason, the dog was not sleeping with me that night. I would have been fine if the dog had been there.
So I wondered out into the hall, intent on finding my parents, but outside the door of my room, there was nothing. The hall was gone. The bathroom was gone, and the door to the front of the house was gone. It was only darkness so I retreated back into my room.
I thought, perhaps, my parents had gone to visit their friends. They did that sometimes. So I crawled out my front window into the rain in my Eeyore nightshirt holding my picture of Gabriel in my little hand.
I ran down our hill to the street and followed it to the corner. I turned and left my quiet neighborhood, well out of bounds from where I was allowed to wander. I found the main road utterly deserted. No traffic lights (I do not think there were any back in that time), no cars, no street lights, no house lights. Just a dark-paved road with a yellow line running down its middle and rain. Loads of rain. I was lost alone in the dark. And the wet. And I was getting cold.
I turned and could see nothing. For a terrifying moment, I believed I had been struck blind or something. I wanted to go home and a voice cried out.
“Run and hide, little one.”
A light shone from the picture I held in my hand. I suppose that is when I woke up. My mother was in my room as the first light of dawn came through my open window. She was cursing that I had knocked out the screen again. I did that a lot. It was much later before I really saw much difference between doors and windows. My mother fussed at me as she packed a bag, sometimes sniffing a shirt that I failed to throw in the laundry closet, giving me the “when will you ever learn” glare.
“You and your brother are going to stay with your grandmother,” she said.
“Your father and I are taking a little trip. Don’t worry. It will be fine.”
I heard a siren outside. It caused my mother to jump and me to run to the window. Children so love flashing lights, and there were two police cars, sirens blaring, blue lights spinning, racing down our little country street. I looked to my mother for an explanation, but her attention was elsewhere.
“Child, you’ve removed Gabriel from his frame again.” My mother was very angry about that. I made her angry a lot. “Why do you do that?”
“To keep me safe,” I told my mother in a small voice.
It would be years later before I learned why the police had been racing down our street and why my brother and I had been banished to my grandparents that summer. Two doors down from us, two men broke into the house, robbed it, stole the car, and murdered everyone inside; the mother, the father, and their two children. Children I had played with. Little children.
For years, my parents told me the family had moved away while we were staying with my grandparents. They would say little else. I do wonder, now, looking back. Did Gabriel keep me safe that night? The bad men could have chosen any house they wished.
Back then, we did not often lock our doors.