I have to confess to omitting the final paragraph of this short children's story I loved writing. When I was younger, I had a habit of using a final paragraph to re-explain the obvious point of my writing, just to make sure my readers would get the point of what I had written. Now, it drives me crazy to read my own writing and tune out that conclusion every time.
So here is My Father's Footsteps, sans my prosaic conclusion:
The snow was crisp beneath my father’s feet, crunching rhythmically in the stillness of the moonlit night with that squeaky sound peculiar to a dry, cold snow. I followed close behind, not wanting to lose him amid the stark silhouettes of the snow-clothed forest. My own tiny feet vanished inside the footprints he left behind in the drifts.
He paved the way for me; all that was left for me to do was to step in the path that he had made. I could barely stretch my legs far enough to reach the next footprint, but he walked slowly, waiting for me to catch up to his lengthy strides.
I didn’t have much time to look around as we trod through the deep snow, so I was surprised when my father stopped a few steps ahead of me.
“Shh.” My father stopped my rather loud question with a quiet whisper.
At the excited tone lacing the whisper, I hurried forward in puerile anticipation, my eyes glowing with expectation. “What?” I whispered this time, enjoying the secret that seemed in the silent glow of the cold night to be exclusively ours.
My father took my little, mittened hand in his large, leather-covered one, drawing me into the circle of his arms. He reached around me to point into a meadow ahead of us.
I gasped in quiet astonishment, and my free hand flew to cover my mouth, lest my minute noise should startle the vision in front of my widening eyes.
A deer was picking its way across the unbroken snow of the meadow, which was surrounded by forest that stood in stark black contrast to the blue-white of the new-fallen snow. The deer itself was but a moving shadow, gracefully sketched against the snow-palette, filled in with the lightest strokes of charcoal.
My nose began to tickle from the prickly wool of the mitten beneath it.
The deer jumped, its quiet serenity shattered by the sound of my irreverence, and in a flurry of snow and legs, vanished into the forest at the other end of the meadow.
My father chuckled. “Come on, little one,” he beckoned, standing again to walk in the same direction the deer had taken.
Too excited to even chatter about our special experience, I followed again in mute trust, wondering what else my father would have to show me as I walked unseeing, trailing in his footsteps.
And then he stopped again, this time in the center of the meadow.
This time I was silent in spite of the questions exploding in my mind as I searched in every direction around me for a glimpse of what it was that my father was seeing. Seeing nothing, I looked questioningly up at his face. He was smiling at me.
He lifted me up in his arms and directed my questioning gaze to the heavens, which were ablaze with the light that was reflected in the millions of shimmering crystals that blanketed the ground around us. I stared in unspeaking awe at the tiny points of light that paid court to the stately moon, who posed surrounded by a misty glow, beaming benevolently at his subjects far below.
My father set me down and we began to walk again, back into the darkened forest on the other side of the meadow. After the brilliant light of the skies, I felt afraid at entering the gloom again, so I drew closer to walk steadfastly in my father’s footsteps, knowing that my father saw things that I didn’t see, that he knew things I couldn’t yet know.
After a while I began to notice as I had not noticed before that the silver rays of the moon penetrated deep into the forest, etching patterns on the snow beneath the trees. Finding the footsteps wasn’t hard at all!
My father stopped again. There was a drop-off into a ravine ahead of us. To me it looked like an abyss too wide to dream of crossing. The snow had piled in the bottom of the creek-bed, deceptively sealing the thin ice beneath it.
My father lifted me in his arms again, and stepped across with ease, carrying me safely to the other side of the cliff, which just a moment ago had seemed unattainable to me. He set me down again and I looked back, shaking my head. It didn’t look so big now that I was on the other side.
My father was several steps ahead of me when I turned forward again, and I hurried tiredly to jump from one footstep to the next in order to catch up with his strides. Soon we emerged from the forest and my father stopped again, this time to carry me, for I was flagging. It was from his arms that I saw where he had been leading me.
Our home was waiting for us only a few steps ahead. The windows glowed with light that pooled in rectangular puddles on the snow, filling the silver of the night with a warm, golden glow.
(image from sxc)