Tattered angel still holds magic

Tammie Toler

There’s an angel that stands watch somewhere in my parents’ house every day of the year. She used to guard the Christmas tree, then the coffee table, but I believe she was relocated to my nephew’s room when we decorated for him a few years ago.

She’s a far cry from the ethereal beauty the heavenly guardians often call to mind. Her dress has been yellowed by time. Her hair is mussed and uneven, and her golden foil wings fell off and were lost years ago. In spite of all of that, she’s still one of my most treasured possessions.  

My fuzzy-haired cherub started out as a cardboard tree topper, and for many of my first Christmases, she stood guard over the family festivities each year. Once my mom brought home a bright, new angel in hopes of replacing the aged one, but every year, I would plead to keep using the faded friend. Each year, she typically wound up sitting slightly crooked atop the tree.

The white-and-gold guardian was replaced the year I was in the fourth grade. Mom fell in love with a pristine, porcelain, lighted tree topper we saw on a family vacation, and Dad and I bought it for her as an early Christmas gift. I, however, steadfastly refused to part with my cherished angel. The single, simple decoration had come to symbolize everything Christmas meant to me. 

Yes, she was worn and shabby looking, but she had been through more holidays in my family than I had. She had been there for my first Christmas at home. She was there when I sat in the dark and gazed in wonder at the tree’s blinking lights and the dancing reflections on the glass bulbs. She had watched as year after year, our family made new friends and reconnected with old ones.

She had seen us open our presents each Christmas morning, only to be reminded that the most precious gifts were the people sitting around the tree, not the packages under it. 

To a stranger, she probably looked as if she needed to have been disposed of years ago, but to me, putting that cardboard angel out with the trash would be akin to throwing out a lifetime of memories. 

Now, when I look at that little, ragged angel, I think she’s a lot like all of us. We are all born in a completely unique state of perfection. We enter this world innocent and pure, like her gown was once white and her foil wings once shone.

Over time, fate has a way of tarnishing us a bit. Betrayals strip away layers of our spirits, and pain and heartaches often leave our souls tattered. But, if we’re lucky, time, love and faith will mend our wounds, and I’ve never felt that healing power more than at Christmas. There’s something about the holiday season that makes it impossible not to believe in miracles and in people. 

I’ve heard that everyone is the person they ought to be on Christmas Day. That’s why I once put my angel where I could see her all the time. After I moved a few years ago, I didn’t dislodge the little cardboard angel for fear that she wouldn’t weather the move well, and as my Mom underwent a nasty health scare a few weeks ago, out of the blue, she announced, “I’ve got to find that little fuzzy-haired angel.” The sentiment surprised me because I didn’t know anyone was as attached to her as me. 

But, with tears in my eyes for more than one reason, I pledged that we’d find the angel but that I thought her wings were hopelessly lost. Mom assured me the wings didn’t matter all that much.

I always kept the angel out to remind me of what I should strive for, no matter how tired or torn I may feel at the time. As Mom tries to recover and make her way home, maybe she’s feeling a bit torn and a lot tired, reminding me that I need to find her the angel. 

Even her magic isn’t potent enough to work by Christmas this year, but a few days late is better than never. 

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net