The game was small enough to fit in Gabe's fist. But he shadowed me as I loaded the washer, stirred the soup, swept crumbs from morning toast. And my heart beat hard. And my stress grew big. I have so many things to do. I don't have time for a game.
"Do you want to play, Mom? It's called the Christmas Game. I made it myself."
Gabe's green eyes shined hopeful. Behind blond bangs that were way too long. A trip to the barber. One more thing to do.
"I'll play, Gabe, a bit later in the day."
"Can I help, Mom? So we can play soon?"
Persistence. Usually a good thing in my son. But today, with my do-do list stretched over two lined pages and stress piled high, it felt like one more pressure.
"Tell you what.. Let me finish in the kitchen. Then before phonics, we'll play."
A wide-open, tooth-gone-missing smile settled on my son's face.
A few minutes later, we sat at the dining room table. He tottered on his chair. I glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner.
"It goes like this," he said. "You get half. I get half. You pick one from me. I pick one from you.Then you make matches. But if you get the angel, you win."
Oh. A little like Old Maid. In reverse. With an angel.
Gabe produced tiny circles cut from white paper. Each circle had been colored. Two green. Two red. Two blue. And one sweet angel with lopsided wings. He mixed them up. Doled them out.
And the game went fast.
"You won," I said. "Rematch."
We played. Again. And again.
After awhile, Gabe pressed the circles into a stack. "We'd better get to phonics," he said.
He was right.
But I'd cherished those moments, my son, and a little game that pulled me away from the things that don't matter and toward things that do.