Choir of Angels: Part III
It was just as well when the pretty angel rebuffed my attempt at small talk. Ernst and I had gotten out of the habit of conversation. And when was the last time I talked to a girl? For that matter, this was the very first time I’d ever even imagined speaking to an angel.
What should I say to her? What was appropriate to say to an angel? I didn’t know anything about her. Not even her name. I’d heard her call the other two by their names but what was hers? Maybe asking later would be all right. For now, though, I let the silence ring between us for a little while.
With all the chatter in the other room as our shelf-mates explored the Christmas tree, it wasn’t really quiet at all though it was pleasant. I enjoyed hearing the excitement in their voices as they looked at all the different things hung on those evergreen boughs.
I’d had the pleasure of a season spent guarding the tree a long time ago when the family decided to put it in the living room right across from Ernst’s and my post.
It had been a marvel. Lights that sparkled red and green and yellow. There were bells and balls, bows and icicles and lots of little decorative things in a wide array of colors. And on the top, an angel too shy to talk to anyone. I wondered if she was there for this season, and what she thought of the hubbub going on right below her wings.
I had to try again. Not only did I want to for myself, I longed to see such happiness bring a sparkle to her eyes.
But first I followed the camel’s advice and wiggled and squirmed until my base came loose from the shelf. That wax was surprisingly sticky but I knew from experience that it held tight when a visiting pup swished its furry black tail at my face.
I strode to the angel’s side and bowed most formally. “Madam,” I said, emphasizing the deep tones in my voice. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, a nutcracker by birth and a nobleman who wears the uniform of my father in Russia.”
She curtseyed as a beautiful blush lit up her face. “How do you do? My name is Clara. I am one of the littlest Christmas angels. I usually watch over the stable through the Christmas season with my sisters Martha and Cecilia and my best friend Lucy. But this year Lucy has gone to a new home and the family has moved us to the shelf with you. We feel a little out of place as I guess you heard my fellow angels.”
“I too am in a different place. The family used to put Baron Ernst and me in the living room but this year, we are here with you and the snow people. It’s a jolly little group, don’t you think?”
“I suppose it is but I wonder why we are all on display together?”
“Maybe because we represent different stories of the Christmas season. You are part of the Nativity story. The snow people represent, I guess, all the wintry songs and stories, such as Frosty the Snowman. I am named for the composer who wrote the famous Christmas ballet. My colleague is named for the author of the story upon which it is based.”
“I did wonder at your names. They are awfully complicated for nutcrackers.”
“I have a particular fondness for your name. The character in the ballet who receives a nutcracker as a gift from Herr Drosselmeyer is often named Clara. It is a lovely name.”
I put my hand out in hopes she would join me in taking a seat on the edge of the shelf. She hesitated so I smiled at her with my most gentle expression and was rewarded with her delicate hand in mine.
I didn’t want to let it go as she took a seat next to me. She smelled like fireplaces and evergreens, the perfect combination for these celebratory days. Her hair fell in ringlets down her back all the way to her silvery wings.
“I’m sorry we haven’t met before,” I said.
“I didn’t dare move from my spot by the stable. It seemed a dreadful risk to take.” A tragic look passed across her face and she sighed a little.
I nodded. “It is true.” I turned my shoulder towards her to show her where I had been glued back together. “Before the family used the waxy stuff on our feet, I was often carried around by a small child who occasionally dropped me.”
“A lot of us are like that,” she said, a true smile now on her face as she fluttered her wings. “If they get chipped much more, I may never be able to fly again. But I don’t mind as long as there’s a child to play with me. The Nativity scene is another matter altogether. It’s been in the family a long time. I think they would cry if a piece was broken.”
I was curious about what was going on above us. “I’ve never seen the stable before. It’s quite a busy place with all those animals and people.”
“The scene is quite old. It used to belong to the family’s parents. I don’t think the family would like to know Hummel takes off whenever he gets the chance.”
“Or those lambs either. They look like they lead their mother a dance.”
The angel laughed. “My friend Lucy used to look after those two.” Then suddenly her face grew dark and I was afraid she might cry. I patted her hand and she continued her story. “I’m sorry. I really do miss her.”
She smiled up at me, tears brimming in her eyes. “I feel so alone this holiday.”
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to miss someone so dear to me. But until this year, I never knew there were so many of us here to celebrate the season.” My heart was full. Resigned to my duty with a taciturn colleague, I had given up hope of finding a friend. Now here I was holding the hand of a sweet angel who desperately needed someone. Maybe it could be me.
We talked for a while, stopping occasionally to listen as Mary and Joseph chatted with the shepherd and the Kings. They liked to tell stories while the baby slept.
By the time Martha came running back to see Clara, I was sure we would be lifelong friends.
She was breathless with excitement. “You have to come. The choir needs your voice, Clara.”
Confusion was written all over my new friend’s face. “What choir?”
“It turns out there is a choir of angels hovering over the dining room table. I need to get my fiddle and Cecilia’s guitar. An angel named Holly wants to lead us in Christmas carols. She has all the word printed out on a long sheet of parchment. Of course we already know them all but I told her I’d bring you. Another angel named Ivy has a guitar too. You have to come. It’s going to be beautiful.”
Do you know what joy looks like? Maybe I’ve seen it before but now I am sure what it looks like. Clara’s face beamed with that miraculous sense of happiness we sometimes experience. After being sad for so long, she needed to join her fellow angels and sing.
“That’s my cue,” she quipped with a little chuckle. “I must sing with them. I’ll bring Cecilia’s guitar, Martha.”
Martha nodded and then scrambled up to get her fiddle and race back to the dining room.
Before she flew away, she turned to me. “Will you come?”
I nodded, unable to quell the growing sense of excitement deep in my heart. It felt like the thrill of the measured steps and rising melodies of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Clara reached for the little guitar and with a flap of her wings rose from the shelf.
I carefully lowered my stiff limbs to the floor, afraid of breaking something but anxious to hear the angels sing.
Tomorrow: Clara’s heart is full of joy as angels from all over the house gather to sing Christmas carols.
(C) Mary K. Tilghman