The Snow Angel

December 24th, 2008

Hi, cialis diagnosis this is Michael James Caughill.

Elliot has been nice enough to give me the opportunity to say a few words on his blog this Christmas Eve.

As some of you may know, I’ve sold a few children’s books.

But my favorite children’s story is one that’s never been published

One year, I wrote a short story about the angel from the top of a Christmas tree. I then gave the story, along with a tree-top angel, to all of my friends and family.

I was particularly happy to be able to give the story to my maternal Grandmother Patricia Jackson.

No one believed in angels the way my Grandmother believed.

She owned angel pins, and angel pictures, and angel poems. She believed in angels the way other people believe in gravity or true love.

When my Grandmother passed away, she left me the angel I’d given her. It now stands atop my own Christmas tree.

Every year, I unpack my Grandmother’s angel, think about her and her unswerving faith, and hope she was right about there being angels.

My Grandmother had a very hard life.

Her husband abandoned her and their three children.

She scrubbed floors and toilets in a hospital every day until she retired to make sure her children had enough to eat.

She spent most of her life living in government housing and ended it in a government nursing home.

If anyone ever deserved to be greeted by angels, it was Patricia Jackson.

I hope she’s with them, now.

Merry Christmas, Grandma, I miss you.


 
Below is the story I gave my friends and family those many years ago.

You’re not free to publish it, but you are free to pass it on.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

The Snow Angel

(A Victorian Christmas Story For Children)

by Michael James Caughill

 

For as long as anyone could remember, Beatrice had been the porcelain angel on top of the Christmas tree. When she was first made her hair was a brilliant gold, her wings were crisp white lace, and her eyes were the same sparkling blue as the winter sky. But that was long ago, and now the gold in her hair had faded to white and her lace wings hung about her like a tattered shawl.

Beatrice loved being a Christmas angel, but more than anything she wanted to be a real angel. She wanted her lace wings to be real wings with feathers as soft as goose down, and she wanted to live in Heaven instead of in a tattered old box in the attic next to some musty books that no one ever read and an ancient rocking horse that no one ever rode. But for her to get to Heaven, she would have to stop being the angel on the top of the tree. And she didn’t think that would ever happen. The family she lived with loved her much too much to let her go–especially the family’s young daughter, Grace.

Each day, Grace would stand beneath the tree and ask Beatrice questions.

“Do you think I will be tall when I grow up?” Grace would ask.

Or “what’s it like to be old?” she would say.

Once she even wanted to know if Beatrice knew where the moon came from.

Of course, Beatrice would never answer. Christmas ornaments aren’t supposed to talk. Their job is to adorn the tree and act, well, ornamental. Yet, Beatrice loved Grace as if she were her own granddaughter. And she knew if she were ever going to get to Heaven she would need someone’s help. So on the day before Christmas, sometime after lunch, Beatrice waited until Grace was alone and when Grace asked “Are there really angels in heaven?”

Beatrice answered in a voice as soft as the snow that fell outside the living room window. “I certainly hope so,” she said.

“Who said that?” Grace asked, peeking around the Christmas tree to see if her older sister was playing a trick on her.

“Up here,” Beatrice said.

Grace looked up to where the tiny angel sat upon the highest bough of the Christmas tree.

“Beatrice?” she asked, her voice full of wonder. “I didn’t know you could talk.”

Beatrice smiled. “Talking is easy,” she said. “It’s knowing when not to talk that most people find difficult.”

“I suppose,” Grace said, “but still, it is unusual for a Christmas ornament.”

“Oh, we would speak much more often,” Beatrice said, “if people cared to listen. And that’s what I need you to do, Grace. I need to ask you for a favor.”

Grace stood on the tips of her toes and whispered, “Anything, Beatrice.”

Beatrice smiled again. And then she said, “I need your help. I want to be a real angel and live in Heaven with all the other angels.”

Grace was stricken. “You want to go away?” she asked. “But I just found out you can talk. There are so many things I want to know. Like what does my name mean? And how do you know when you love somebody for real? And what’s the best way to make chocolate chip cookies?”

Beatrice laughed.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “You learn all those things, someday. But I can’t stay, sweetheart. It’s my time to go. You’ll see me again, I promise.”

Even though most of Grace’s long hair was bound in a pony tail and held by an emerald ribbon, she still had to brush a few auburn strands away from her face as she looked up at the little angel.

“Promise?” she said.

“I swear,” Beatrice said.

“And it will make you really happy?” Grace asked.

“More than anything” Beatrice answered.

Grace nodded, a little sadly Beatrice thought.

“Then I’ll help,” Grace said.

Beatrice leaned forward so that the branch she sat upon actually bent closer to the ground. “Thank you,” she said.

“I suppose we can start by getting you down,” Grace said, “But how?”

Beatrice glanced around the gaily-decorated parlor. She smiled when she saw the high backed wooden chair set beside the fireplace.

“That chair,” Beatrice said. “Next to the fireplace. Do you think you could fetch it closer?”

“I’ll try,” Grace said.

Grace tugged the chair up tight against the pine branches and clambered carefully atop it. She stretched high on the tips of her toes, lovingly gathered the doll-like angel into her arms and then climbed cautiously down.

“Now what?” Grace asked.

Beatrice sighed. “I’m not exactly sure,” she said. “Do you have any ideas?”

“Well,” Grace said, “I suppose we could ask the postman to take you.”

Beatrice’s face glowed with hope and happiness. “What a splendid thought,” she said. “Do you think the postman will know the way to Heaven?”

“I don’t see why not,” Grace said. “He delivers my letters to Santa all the way to the North Pole. I don’t think Heaven can be any harder to find.”

So Grace carried Beatrice to her mother’s sewing room where she found a small hat box, clean brown parcel paper and twine to tie it with. She lined the hatbox with soft red tissue paper and set Beatrice in the middle of it.

“Comfortable?” Grace asked.

“Very,” Beatrice answered.

Grace tucked the tissue paper around the little angel.

“I’m going to miss you,” she said.

“I’ll miss you, too. But I’ll be watching over you,” Beatrice promised.

Grace put the lid over the box and wrapped the package with the paper and twine. She took a pencil and wrote: To Heaven on the parcel and put three postage stamps on one corner. Then she went to the closet, donned her cloak, her winter bonnet and her mittens, and carried the bundle out to the postbox.

Grace spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the window seat looking out at the letterbox. When the postman finally came, trudging up the snow-covered drive that lead to her door, she watched as he removed the package from the mailbox and examined it. He took off his blue cap and scratched his head. Then he carried the parcel up to the house. Grace opened the door before the man could even knock.

“Hello,” the postman said. “I’m afraid I can’t deliver this package.”

“Why not,” Grace asked. “Didn’t I put enough stamps on it? I can get some more.”

“It’s just that Heaven isn’t exactly on my route,” the postman said.

“Postmen don’t go to Heaven?” Grace asked.

The postman laughed. “I’m sure some of us do, but I certainly hope I’m not going there, today.”

Grace sighed and took the parcel. “Thank you anyway,” she said, because her mother had taught her to always be polite. Even when disappointed.

“You’re welcome,” the postman said and doffed his cap.

Grace shut the door behind him, and then she undid the package that she had so lovingly wrapped just a few hours before.

When Grace removed the top of the box, Beatrice asked “Am I in Heaven?”

Grace said “No, the postman didn’t know the way.”

Beatrice sighed. “There must be something we can do. Perhaps a dove could carry me?”

“We don’t have any doves,” Grace said.

“Then a hot air balloon.” Beatrice volunteered.

Grace shook her head. “We don’t have one of those either.”

The two of them sat pondering, until Grace’s face lit up like the candles flickering on the Christmas tree.

“I know what we can do,” she exclaimed. “I’ll be right back.”

She ran down to her father’s workshop, and searched through his many strange tools and inventions. Soon she found what she was looking for and raced with it back to parlor.

Beatrice looked at the strange spear-shaped object and asked, “What is it?”

“It’s something my father calls a skyrocket,” Grace said. “He told me once that if you set it on the ground and lit the wick, it could fly all the way to Heaven.”

“It’s perfect,” Beatrice exclaimed.

“First, we must find a way to fasten you to it,” Grace said as she looked around the parlor. “Sewing thread?” she said more to herself than to Beatrice. ‘No, not strong enough,’ she thought.

“Twine?” she asked looking at what was left of the package she had wrapped Beatrice in. “No that won’t do either,” she said.

Suddenly she knew the answer. She took the emerald ribbon from her hair and used it to bind Beatrice to the rocket.

“It’s not too tight, is it?” she asked.

“Just tight enough I should think,” Beatrice replied.

Grace fetched her cloak, hat, and mittens once again and carried the rocket and the little angel out into the gathering darkness. She swept a small spot in the middle of her yard clean of snow and stood the rocket and its precious cargo in the middle of it.

“Now, I just need some way to light it,” Grace thought. She remembered the burning logs in the fireplace and ran back into the house. She returned a moment later with a small piece of kindling glowing softly at one end.

“Ready?” Grace asked.

“I think so,” Beatrice nodded. “Thank you for all your help, my dear. I will miss you.” And for a moment, it almost seemed as if there were a little tears painted on the cheeks of her porcelain face.

“I’ll miss you, too,” Grace said. Then, standing at arm’s length from the little rocket, she lit the wick with the brand from the fireplace. It burned quickly. The rocket engine ignited and, with a rush like the sound of a hundred birds taking wing together, it bore Beatrice up into the darkening sky. Grace clapped excitedly as the rocket climbed higher and higher. But then, suddenly, it burst like a new star on the horizon. The crack of the explosion sounded like the breaking of her heart.

“Oh no,” Grace cried. She hadn’t known that the skyrocket was really a firecracker.

“What have I done?” she wept as burning pieces of the rocket trailed like shooting stars across the winter sky.

Bereft, she stood in the snow trying to cover her sobs with her mittened hands. Then she heard a voice like a sigh speaking from above her and behind her, and all around her. It was Beatrice!

“Don’t cry, Grace. You haven’t destroyed me. You’ve freed me. I’m in Heaven, now. It seems the only way anyone ever gets to Heaven is to leave their body behind.”

Tears ran like melting snowflakes down Grace’s cheeks. “But you said I would always be able to see you again,” Grace cried. “How can that happen, now that you’re gone?”

Beatrice’s voice mixed with the wind dancing through the branches. “When the first snow falls and you find yourself missing me,” she said, “just lay down on that clean white blanket and look up into heaven. Then wave your arms and legs the same way you always jumped up and down when your father brought me from the attic.”

“You mean like this?” Grace asked and laid herself down in the cold snow at her feet.

“Now wave,” Beatrice whispered.

Grace swept her arms and legs back and forth as is she were swimming through an ocean of clouds.

Beatrice’s voice was gentle as she said, “Stand, Grace, and look at the snow beneath you.”

Grace eased herself up and turned to look at the place she had been lying. She gasped. There in the snow was a perfect angel, just like Beatrice.

“Beatrice, it’s you,” Grace said.

“As long as you remember me,” Beatrice said, “I will always be with you. As long as you remember anyone you love they never really leave.”

“I love you, Beatrice,” Grace said.

Beatrice’s voice slowly faded as she said, “I love you too, Grace.”

Her heart full, even as it ached with loss, Grace lay back into the feathery snow and waved at the clouds, and at the moon, and at all the stars in the sky as she said goodbye to her favorite angel in Heaven and said hello to another perfect angel in the snow.

 

THE END

Entry Filed under: Personal

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Fuzz Martin  |  December 25th, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Very nice, Michael. Merry Christmas.

  • 2. steveegg  |  December 25th, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Merry Christmas.

  • 3. Chris from Racine  |  December 25th, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Beautiful – Merry Christmas

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Being in a wheelchair gives you a unique perspective on the world. This blog features many of my views on politics, art, science, and entertainment. My name is Elliot Stearns. More...

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