Years had passed since I’d moved from North Carolina, but not a day went by that I didn’t think of my old mountain home. Especially during the month of December. There were no white Christmases here in Florida. Nothing could duplicate the scent of a fresh-cut evergreen from just over the hill. Mom’s fruitcake. Carolers singing from house to house. The surprises under the tree. Happy memories, all of them, but sometimes they made me sad instead.
One holiday found me especially melancholy for the past. It was a few days before Christmas, and I hadn’t so much as pulled the decorations out of the attic. My sons had sent me gifts, but they’d asked me what I wanted. I already knew what was wrapped up in those boxes. I sat in my recliner and stared into space. Forgive me, Lord. I’ve always loved the magic of Christmas. But there were no surprises for me this year.
“You have to do something, Kitty,” I finally said. This was not like me. Where was my Christmas spirit? I pulled myself out of the chair. A holiday display might help chase away the blahs. I decided to concentrate on the mantel above the fireplace. Maybe an angel or two. I certainly had plenty of those.
My angel collection filled two lighted curio cabinets in the foyer, mostly gifts over the years. Just looking at the figurines usually made me feel better.
Toward the back of one of the shelves, I spied a white bisque Madonna and Child. Where had that come from? For the life of me I couldn’t remember. It will be perfect for the mantelpiece!
Carefully I took the statue from the curio and brought it into the other room. I set it on the mantelpiece and got an idea. I surrounded the Madonna and Child with red poinsettias, adding a white candle on either side. Simple and beautiful—but something was missing. Of course, I needed an angel! Not just any angel. It had to be the right one.
Now intent on my project, I scoured the shelves of my curio cabinets. Angels, angels, angels. Too tall, too short. Not the right expression. Blue, pink, silver, gold. Nothing to match the white bisque Madonna and Child. The lights in the curios seemed to spotlight certain angels. “Pick me,” they seemed to say, but I rejected them all. Won’t anything work out for me this Christmas?
Someone knocked on the front door. I was glad for the interruption. My angel project was going nowhere.
I went to answer the door and saw the UPS man climbing into his truck. “Thank you,” I called out. He’d left me a package. As I waved to him, I looked out at the scenery. The grass was green and the roses were still blooming. Not like the wintry Christmas landscape of my childhood. The blahs threatened to overtake me once more.
I turned to go in and glanced at the return label on the package. It was from a cousin in snow-covered North Carolina! Suddenly I felt the warmth from every fireplace in my old mountain home. I could smell the evergreens. I could hear the Christmas carolers. Maybe these memories would lift me up and get me through the season.
Inside I set the package on the living room table. I was tempted to open it right then and there, but I resisted. Whatever was inside, it was the only surprise I had to look forward to on Christmas morning.
That night I couldn’t sleep. My doldrums had the best of me. I crawled out of bed and walked aimlessly through the darkened house. There’s no Christmas magic in here this year, that’s for sure. Then the new package caught my eye. Why wait?
I picked up the box and tore at the wrappings, eager as a child. As the paper fell away, I couldn’t believe my eyes. An angel! Not just any angel, but a beautiful white bisque one exactly like I was looking for. Exactly the right size. Exactly the right expression on the angel’s face. I hopped to the task, filled with Christmas spirit.
Who cared if it was the middle of the night? It was Christmas, after all! I redesigned the mantel display with the angel front and center. Magic! In the candlelight the faces of the figurines shone like heaven itself.
Thank you, Lord. Thank you, North Carolina. I settled in the recliner for the rest of the night, reveling in the wonder of Christmas—the very first one, and every one since.