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Excerpted from A Book of Angels by Sophy Burnham. Copyright 1990 by Sophy Burnham. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"For an instant we children would consider what an angel might look like."

Sophy Burnham, A Book of Angels, Part 2

Once I asked my father if he believed in God. He put down his papers, removed his glasses, uncrossed his legs, and considered his answer:

"I have no reason to believe in God," he said. "I have never seen anything to convince me there is a God. On the other band," he continued, voice lifting in his legal lilt, "I've noticed throughout my life that all of the most brilliant minds of every generation believe in God--Tolstoy, Einstein, Marcus Aurelius--and who am I to say there's not? So I tend to go along with Pascal that if there's a God, I'm better off paying my dues, and if there isn't one, I haven't lost anything. You should hedge your bets."

I tell this to show that my environment did not encourage psychic experiences or the weird meanderings of a mind deranged. We were pragmatic.

Of course, if the conversation at the dining room table suddenly came to a halt for ten or twenty seconds, my mother or an aunt might say, "There's an angel passing through the room." For an instant we children would consider what an angel might look like and why we would all grow still at its approach. "There's an angel passing through the room," a grown-up would say; the silence would fracture like glass into laughter and the conversations pick up again, bright and sharp as wind.

So that was our childhood--my sister, brother, and myself romping with our dogs and clambering on the chicken-house roof when our mother wouldn't see, or jumping off the garage rafters; we climbed trees and swung green as apples in our Eden. We rode to school in a car pool, sat dully in overheated classes, stupefied by the hissing radiators and bored by the monotony of the teacher's voice. We learned the proper rules. We fought with friends, made up, sulked or laughed in perfectly normal, thoughtless, childhood life. The only thing that made us different perhaps was the isolation of living in the country during World War II. We listened to the radio, talked to one another, read.

We read constantly. We read the classics and were ridiculed for not having finished all of Shakespeare before the age of twelve, as our Aunt Kate had, or for not having opened Herodotus. I went away to boarding school, continued on to college, graduated, and got a job as a typist (which is what a woman did in those days when she graduated with honors from a major college). I married. I had children. I worked.

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