Around this time last year, I wrote a post showing a photograph of a snowflake against a cloudless azure sky. I took this angel photo in the same park this year. (Click on photo to see angel more clearly.) In fact, the street lamps alternately display angels and snowflakes. In last year’s post I commented on the incongruity of the snowflake against an amazingly bright Duke-blue sky. I went from incongruities to oxymorons (aka oxymora) and the race was on. I’m feeling a bit less playful as I sit down to write today; in fact, I’m downright pensive. We’ll see where this angel takes me.
Here you see the angel of my childhood. She certainly looks benevolent and celestial, doesn’t she? When I was a youngster, and even through my teens, this picture resided on the wall beside my bed. Living in the mountains meant we had our share of rickety little foot bridges similar to the one in the picture. I imagined this was my brother trying to make his way across the bridge and the girl was our older sister helping him along, which she would have done with great good nature. Of course they couldn’t see her, but the guardian angel was there to help them both across. Sweet story. Reassuring to a little girl who lived in a less than adequate home with less than competent parents. (They did love us, though, I’ll give them that.)
Alas, the sweet story went awry. Not his sisters, not his momma, not even an ethereal being sent from above could save that little boy from himself and his demons. He died of a drug and alcohol overdose at the age of sixty-one. Like father, like son. He spent his entire life wanting and trying to do something, anything better than our dad. He finally succeeded. He out-lived him by about a year.
Ahhh, but “hope springs eternal in the human breast.” (Alexander Pope said that.) And so we bring out the angels at Christmastime and we burden them with our hopes and wishes. We charge them with keeping us safe. We put one on the tiptop of the Christmas tree. What’s she supposed to do up there anyway? Guard the tree? If we’re lucky, we have an image of one in a difficult childhood who helps us through all manner of hard times. Who/What are these ubiquitous presences? I have a theory but first I’d love to know what you think. Care to comment?