As I sat staring at the blank computer screen, I wondered what I could write about. It had been a wretched day. It was really hard to think clearly tonight.
In another room of the house, my grandson was playing by the Christmas tree while watching a cartoon special on television with his mother. Suddenly, there was a loud crash and then complete silence. It was too quiet. I forgot about my computer and, tiptoed in to investigate.
My daughter was on the phone, distracted in conversation, when my grandson decided to play with the porcelain Christmas Angel. We don’t know exactly what transpired after that. We do know that the angel failed to survive. She lay broken into pieces on the coffee table, and my three-year old grandson was hiding behind the Christmas tree.
“I sorry gran’ma,” he said, sobbing.
I picked up the broken pieces, hoping it was not as bad as it appeared. It was. The angel was gone. Her music box would never be wound again with loving hands. She would never again tinkle a musical “Silent Night” as she twirled round and round on her pestle. She would never again bring Christmas joy or happy smiles.
The angel lived with us for a lot of years. I’m not even sure how many. I had her when my own children were small. She was unpacked each year at Christmas and carefully put away at the end of the holiday season. My young children delighted in her each holiday season as they held her in their tiny hands and listened to her music play. All through the years, they had always handled her carefully and she had never been broken.
Each year, the Christmas Angel stood on the coffee table in a place of honor, watching over our home. Many times, including this year, I had considered placing her up high where little hands could not reach. “No,” I always reasoned, her purpose is not to go untouched. Her purpose is to play music and bring joy to children at Christmas.
As I held the broken pieces in my hand, I felt strangely calm. In spite of my sentimental attachment, the angel was only a music box, an object. People are what is really important – things are not.
As usual, there were many questions. Why had we not been more attentive? Why had we not put the angel in a safer place? Why did the child decide to play with an object that was supposed to be special? It was difficult seeing it broken.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “It was bound to happen sooner or later. It can’t be fixed.”
Broken angels, like broken hearts, are never really mended.
My grandson, still afraid, was peeking out from behind a chair, waiting to see what would happen to him.
“It’s okay, honey – it was an accident.”
I really could not feel any wrath. To break the heart of a child by scolding him for mishap is a far worse thing than a broken Christmas Angel.
My daughter now sits cross-legged in the middle of the floor, still trying to glue the pieces back together. My daughter has not yet learned what I know after so many years. Broken items are never the same again and will only continue to remind us that they have been broken.
There will be another Christmas. A music box can be replaced. But a child only has one heart.