By Deborah Kinsinger
A friend is a brother who was once a bother.
It had been a very long year parenting my two teenage sons. A single mom, I often felt the weight of the day-to-day burden of guiding, helping, disciplining, and raising two boys in a town of 80,000 in central Ontario. In many ways my boys were oil and water, each one's needs seeming to grate upon the very soul of the other. For a number of years I wondered if they would ever be friends the way my siblings and I are. The older one was doing the obnoxious teenage things we all worry about, and the younger one passed up no opportunity to tell his brother what he thought of him.
"This is the only brother you have," I would remind them. "You will have each other for your whole lives. You guys need to be friends."
"No way," one of them would say. "He's a creep."
Then came the Christmas holidays. Eager to try anything that might ease the tension and offer a fresh perspective for our family, I booked us into a resort near Horseshoe Valley. On Boxing Day I loaded the boys and their gear into my car and we drove north to ski country, staying near the slopes. After a day of racing down double-black-diamond hills, the frost between the two brothers had almost begun to thaw.
The next day I said, "Okay, we're going out to play in the snow and take a hike. Put on your snow clothes."
"I'm too tired," complained one.
"I don't want to," whined the other.
So out we went anyway.
Deep snow, sunshine through the trees, rocks to climb, snow piles to dig into surrounded us. Within twenty minutes, my sophisticated, worldly-wise, moody teenage boys became bear cubs: jumping, running, falling, climbing, and digging. One slid down a steep bank, the other found a branch and extended it to pull him back up. My heart melted as I watched my young men playing like they had when they were little. Afraid to break the magic, I did not say a word. I watched them play, and my heart rejoiced. Snowballs, snow caves, playing tag in hip-deep snow. They were having fun with one another!
The miracle had happened. Away from suburban life, away from the distractions of computers and friends, my sons began to relate in a healthy, playful, and loving way again. We stayed out in the snow and cold until the boys were rosy-cheeked and soaked through. Then we headed in for hot chocolate and a roaring fire. Gone were the enemies they had become. The picture of them tromping back to our room through the snow, arms around each other's shoulders, still brings tears to my eyes. Who knew it could be this simple?
My boys are young men now, and still working at their friendship. They don't always see eye to eye, although more and more they enjoy one another's company. But I give thanks for the gift of healing brought by a Canadian winter's day, the romp in the snow that gave my sons back the gift of a brother.