On the wall of my breakfast nook hangs a wooden shelf with the majority of my angel collection. These include the china birthday angels that my mother got for my grandparents — April and September, with chipped wings and broken halos. I’ve lost a few over the years, several in one fell swoop when the shelf itself got knocked akimbo. It’s properly hung now and the collection rests comfortably, albeit covered with dust.
But the window angels drew my attention yesterday, as I sat on one of the wooden stools eating breakfast on the linoleum top of the laundry table which migrated to the kitchen for my last women’s dinner and stayed. I put my coffee cup on its speckled surface and gazed at the trinkets adorning sill and ledge.
Here is my kindergarten class picture standing beside a black-and-white photo of Corinne Hahn Hayes, my great-grandmother. There’s an Italian crystal angel which my niece Chelsea’s mother gave me to replace my brother’s angel which I had passed to Chelsea. To the right stands the music box given by Grandma Corley to little Mary Corinne Corley, so many years ago. Next to it rests the angel box that one of my shared daughters gave me for Christmas in 2010. I touch its shiny surface and feel a sense of sorrow.
To the right and left of the window hang mementos: The laminated leaf from my son’s kindergarten days; a Christmas ornament purchased the year that my household size doubled which I’ve deemed too fragile to pack away with the rest of the tree decorations. On the upper ledge stands an ornament that I bought at a thrift store last year while struggling to make sense of the loss and longing which pulled me from the celebrations. She guards the little flower pot holding the God’s-eye that Patrick made for me back in a simpler time.
To the left is the clock which only tells the correct time twice a day, but which has such a beautiful case that I cannot bear to discard it. And there’s another thrift store ornament, a snowman, that Patrick and I found at MaJR-Thrift, years ago, in another lifetime.
In the window I’ve hung an angel which appears to be African-American. I selected her from a pile being sold for fifty-cents each at a garage sale. Since my family has been multi-cultural for twenty-years by dint of adoption, it seems only fitting that my angel collection should be integrated.
Sitting in this grotto yesterday, among these lesser known angels, I could not decide if my life had become so grim and lonely that I have to turn to inanimate objects for comfort or if these trinkets symbolized the joyfulness that I yearn to embrace. I never knew my great-grandmother but silently beg her to speak, to tell me how she made her life comfortable, how she settled in a strange land with her daughter and her son-in-law without complaint. She must have been cold, moving from New Orleans to St. Louis in her widowhood. She had to have been stoic, determined. Perhaps she had attained such inner peace that she could have been happy on the moon.
The phone rang and broke my reverie, yesterday, just as it has done today. I left the angels and the ornaments and the snapshots to start my day. In the evening, I stood in front of the window to take a picture, and felt the memories of everyone who has come into the house crowd around me. Among the angels there is only room for love. I let my sadness slide away; I let the angels soothe me.