On Christmas Day my daughter
(named after an Allman Brothers song, not a saint)
helped out at a soup kitchen.
I’ve never done anything that commendable.
She got the idea from a friend,
not from me.
I think holy are the No Toxic Spraying signs
we store in the milkhouse for winter.
But I remember
my mother’s Christmas angel,
yellowed with age, the only one we ever had.
Fiberglass, Mother warned when we were little.
It’ll cut you if you touch.
So we never did.
We held our breath as she stood on a chair to place it on the top branch.
We broke all her glass ornaments on the hardwood floor,
the guilty one downcast with the evidence at her feet.
We needed no scolding from mother,
we dealt it out in holy measure amongst ourselves.
The nativity scene, ox and ass, baby and mother were another matter—
solid wood and unbreakable Joseph. We rearranged them throughout Advent.
Baby Jesus kept coming up missing.
I placed the shepherd closer to the action than the wise men.
They were wise but late arriving in their fancy robes and strange hats.
I gave a bushel of beets to the food pantry.
Does that count?
Dad wrestled our eight-foot trees into their stand
and trimmed the bottom branches.
(A Linck tree was never tied to the wall.)
Mother handled the lights and the angel while we fidgeted
with the ornaments spread out in front of us.
Their trees got smaller as we all left
(like mother, standing in stocking feet to place the angel)
and now the tree sits on an end table.
What glass ornaments remain stay wrapped
because there is no room on a tabletop tree.
But for an angel, yellowed with age, there always will be.