During this festive week, I am running short fiction inspired by the holidays. This short series begins my literary celebration of the season. Inspired by of all things, my own Christmas decorations, Comfort and Joy introduces you to the lonely nutcracker and the grieving angel and all the cohort of angels, Nativity characters and snow people around them. It’s sweet as a Christmas cookie but written with love.
PART IV: GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO
I fluttered my wings only once and I was airborne. Rising above the manger scene, clutching Cecilia’s guitar, I was both exhilarated and terrified. I couldn’t keep the memory of Lucy’s nearly tragic fall from weighing me down. But oh to sing with a choir. It was my fondest wish and now it was coming true.
The four of us—Cecilia, Lucy, Martha and me—spent every Christmas season amusing the folks gathered in that stable with our songs celebrating the holiday season. We loved the ones about angels best but we’d learned a few silly ones like Jingle Bells and songs about Santa Claus. This year though, our trio didn’t sound nearly as good without Lucy’s deep alto voice. We still sang, it’s what we do, but it wasn’t the same.
Much as I wished to hurry through the kitchen to the place where the angels were gathering, I needed to wait for Pyotr. He’d been so kind to me, in a way I had never known before. I liked sharing stories with him and seeing his eyes light up as I explained the whole story behind that stable—even why there was a camel among the animals. Hummel was the first dromedary Pyotr had ever seen.
As I reached for his hand, he smiled. “You can go ahead if you want. I’ll be right behind you.”
Oh I couldn’t race ahead. I held onto his hand and we strolled across the floor. The dining room was lit by the power of angels. They glow when they sing, you know. A sextet hovered around the chandelier—all different kinds of angels from many different places. One with a hand-crocheted gown said she was from Croatia, another wore a lei from Hawaii. A little Cupid-like angel was studying the lyrics on her parchment. A third reminded me of a seashell I saw in a picture.
Cecilia raced up to me for her guitar and then flitted up to the chandelier where Martha and Ivy were tuning their instruments. Two larger angels, the Tree Angels, stood together—an unusual occurrence since they reign over trees in different parts of the house—their heads bent close as they whispered to one another. They seemed so friendly I wondered if they had been meeting often over the years.
The lambs were there with their mother. Gabriella had fallen asleep, nestled against her mother’s soft side.
I paused before fluttering up to join the choir.
Pyotr pointed to a spot at one corner of the dining room table. “There’s Ernst and Hummel. I’ll go sit with them.
Hummel had sat down, his long legs folded under his big furry body. Ernst rested beside him, his arm around the camel’s neck. I couldn’t help glancing their way often through the night. Pyotr and Ernst were such good friends, even though they said very little to one another. Hummel, not much of a talker either, made their group a contented threesome.
A tiny angel, the one that reminded me of the seashore, was holding a bouquet of flowers as she hovered beside me. “I was sorry to hear Lucy has gone away,” she said quietly. “I’m sure you miss her very much.”
I nodded, holding back the tears stinging my eyes. “I’m sure she’s happy with her new family” was all I could choke out.
“Singing will do you good,” she said. “At least, it makes me feel better.”
Her sweet smile and kind manner made me think she might be right. Now was not the time to feel sorry for myself. “I’m Clara,” I replied.
“And I’m Joy.”
“Honored to make your acquaintance.”
Ivy cleared her throat and rattled her parchment. “Shall we begin?”
Our songs began with an old favorite, “Silent Night” which we sang in English, Latin and the original German.
A couple of the angels knew it in Spanish and Swahili and we listened to the beautiful song.
The room glowed brighter as music filled the air. I could feel the excitement growing in the room from the music, our being together and knowing that it was Christmas Eve, the night when the real angels sang out the news for the very first time. I could hardly breathe.
We sang and sang and sang.
One of the Tree Angels knew a whole repertoire of Latin Glorias and even Handel’s Hallelujah chorus. Normally so shy, she closed her eyes to sing out the ancient tunes. It was magical.
The snow people, who had run around the house all night, settled in beneath the chandelier to listen to her. The shepherd and the Kings took seats beside Hummel, although the Carpenters remained in the stable to watch over their sleeping babe.
Not wanting to awaken the child but wishing to include Mary and Joseph, we sang a little bit louder
Mostly we sang the old Christmas carols, whose words everyone knew but Martha insisted on teaching Jingle Bells to those who had never heard it. The song got a little raucous and we ended with a round of giddy laughter.
As it ended, I glanced down to see my new friend Pyotr clapping for me. I realized Joy was right. I was feeling better.
Tomorrow: The final scene—under the mistletoe. Two more bits of short fiction will follow. A sweet ghost story on Sunday, Dec. 27. Then on Monday, Dec. 28, we’ll revisit Jessica and her daughter Lori from FALLING IN LOVE WHILE WORKING FROM HOME and see what they’re up to this holiday season.
(C) Mary K. Tilghman