Angel On High

Angel On High

Christmas decorations gather dust on the mantelpiece. Merry reindeer, whose antlers upturn in jubilant salute to the heavens, now slump their calico-clad bodies toward the hearth. A leg-lamp memento from The Christmas Story is switched off, no longer glowing like sex in the window. For the first time, the angel we have seen on high has not fallen from her precarious perch on the nativity’s stable roof. The letters on her angelic banner proclaim Gloria to the deafening silence.      

In years past, when my children were small and decorations didn’t get boxed immediately after the New Year, I would mumble, “La Befana”—the Italian Christmas witch. She arrives on Epiphany Eve to deliver candy (or coal) in children’s shoes. Never a major celebration in my husband’s Italian family, I was happy to toss a few candies my kids’ way in order to use the excuse.

This year, Epiphany has passed, uncelebrated. I flop on the couch and glance at the mantle. It had been an effort to put up those sparse decorations. Why bother? What’s the point? I asked my husband, my lack of enthusiasm in direct proportion to the limited contact with my grandchildren, to the lack of children’s laughter. The Christmas‑with-no-tree was blessedly over.

“I should take those down,” I mutter. Words are the only effort I can muster. The decorations, I know, will still be there tomorrow.

Ennui blankets my soul like the drifts of snow that wrap around my house. I don’t resist the weariness. A minimum of tasks gets completed. Walk the dog. Shovel the driveway. Eat. Library books, unread, are renewed automatically online, only to sit unread again. Day drags into night drags into day. The metallic sound of the mailbox interrupts the tedium. I debate the likelihood of incoming mail versus the lid merely flapping in the wind. I don’t get up.

Across the room, an amaryllis bulb emerges from the dark peat. I mark its growth on paper like the pencil marks that once marked the door frame to track children’s height. Kindergarten, grade one. On and on until I had to reach above my head to score the line.

The plant’s green stem grows half an inch overnight, then one inch, two, each day shooting skyward at an increasing pace. At twenty inches, the upward growth slows, energy now redirects to the bulbous tip which swells in gestation. At the apex, the slit of an opening as the swollen labia-sepals begin their separation, parting unhurriedly to birth the blood-red blossom.

Some day soon, I will emerge from this darkness. Not yet. For now, I wait in expectation, listening, trusting, in the angelic Gloria.

Originally posted Jan, 2022.

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