Friday, December 19, 2014

Four Angels

I love to decorate for Christmas.

But I prefer to do it very slowly. 

The halls of most American yuletide-loving homes are fully decked by the close of Thanksgiving weekend, but that's when I'm just beginning my process. Armed with bits of paper, tree branches, fishing line, assorted garlands, and twinkle lights, I expect to spread the job out over the next few weeks.

Here, in day-to-day installments, is the story of how my house is getting ready for Christmas.

* * * * *

Over the years, I've created a little collection of Christmas angels.

I'm kind of a fussy collector - I'd rather have a highly selective handful of my most favorite objects than lots of so-so specimens - and in this case, my standards have been particularly high.

Because these four angels represent my four daughters.

My mom bought the salt-dough cutie on the far left for me when I was a teenager. She represents my childhood daydreams of motherhood - precious and sweet - which were made real by my sweet first-born.

The elegant harp-playing cherub came from my mother-in-law, and I believe she is a tiny reproduction of a Renaissance-era sculpture. Her poetic aesthetic reflects classic artistic beauty, and reminds me of my art-loving second-born.

Most colorful and energetic, the third angel is one that I chose for myself. Bold and vibrant, yet delicately balanced on her tiny tip-toe feet, everything about this angel captures my third-born's passion for life. 

I picked out the fourth angel too. At first glance, she seems plain and pale. But when my gaze lingers, I notice subtle details - the embroidered lace on her dress, the tiny folds of her cornhusk wings, the perfect O of her tiny red mouth. Like my fourth-born, the richness of her being emerges fully when given a bit of time. 

My dining room has gone through a bazillion changes over the past twenty years, but at Christmas time, my four angels always stand guard in this blue cupboard. It's a tradition that has stood the test of time, and Christmas wouldn't be quite the same without them.

Above their angelic heads stands a small scene that is brand new: a pair of air plants, resting on two chunks of coral which I discovered on Cham Island and hauled across the planet to my very own home. I love the sense of here-and-now that they add to this vignette.

And across the room stands a Christmas cactus, an offshoot of the enormous Mother of All Christmas Cacti that belonged to my plant-loving maternal grandmother. Right on schedule, this big beauty has begun to put out holiday blooms, just as its mother plant did through all the Decembers of my childhood. It's almost as if my grandma is reaching down from heaven. right into my dining room. to send her Merry Christmas wishes to my four angel babies and me.

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