There were nine. Nine golden angels made of glass.
It all started when they caught Mother’s eye. A rare, impulse buy. All at once in that tiny moment, in that unknowing act, a progression of events was started that would eventually end in a yearly disaster.
The act of buying glass anything was foolish, she knew, for a household with not only one, but two babies. However it wasn’t that first year, nor the second, but the third when the tradition began. That third year, when there were three children.
Nevertheless a tradition was born – thee tradition was born – for every tradition must make its debut.
It was an innocent mistake, that first broken angel. A boy, a girl and a ball. One quick game of indoor catch was all it took. Of course, Mother saw it all before it actually happened, as most mother’s do. Wisdom. Foresight. Experience. Whatever it was, she called out her warning a second too late.
The inevitable crash of shattering glass. Immediate chaos, if only for a second. An overreaction of sorts. Yelling. Tiny stricken faces with regretful tears.
Finally, understanding dawns: it’s not that big a deal.
Voices soften, the room calms and Mother warns gently now: “Be careful, step away, that glass is sharp.”
Year four. Fast baby. Moving baby. Soft chubby hands grab for a sparkling figure, carelessly placed two branches too low. A single snap. A piercing scream. Mother holds baby close as little drops of red appear on the cherub’s hands. She cleans them carefully, silently. Kissing them, bandaging the wounds. Angel number two is momentarily forgotten.
When, and only when baby is safe in his crib, Mother cleans up the mess. She looks at the angel, broken in pieces and shakes her head. What a stupid move, such a thoughtless notion, to buy glass.
The fifth year, another child joins the picture. Four little children. But they can’t be blamed for broken angel number three. This one was on Daddy. Goofy Daddy. Careless Daddy. Daddy with his smiling eyes.
Mother yells again, “You careless bunch of hooligans! I only have six left!” but as she turns to get the vacuum, a smile tugs at her lips.
Three years, three angels.
Year six was quite different, for the angel broke itself. At least, that is what Mother claimed as she carefully and gently lifted the angelic piece to the tree. The halo, which held the string simply snapped and down, down, down fell the ornament as Mother gasped. The room is silent, except for the breaking angel. The shattering of glass now sounds like the chiming of a familiar childhood memory. Each piece holds its own pitch, and rings out its broken song: The sound of Christmas.
A snicker. A snort. The room hold no more tension. The family bursts into laughter. Four years in a row. One broken angel a year. No more, no less.
By the time year seven rolls around, the family of seven opens up the decoration box to find a fifth wingless angel. Had the box dropped? Had it been carelessly packed away? No one knows. But by now it’s a game. A silly little game. How will next year’s angel break?
Year eight doesn’t disappoint. Mom’s once again growing tired of the negligence. But still, she allows the laughter, pulling out the vacuum, the expression she wears is one resigned to the destiny of her fragile figures.
“I only have three left.”
The oldest child just giggles, “But Mooom, it has to break. It’s tradition!”
Year nine and ten fly by in a similar manner. There’s now eight broken angels. Never once was one shattered on purpose. But each year it happens just the same.
Finally, year eleven approaches. The Christmas tree is up. The five children are all older. Less careless.
Mama stares at that last glass angel. Something in her hopes it will break. Another part wishes it will last forever. But either way, she knows, the tradition will soon end. All traditions must have a finale. Either that or they slowly die out, forgotten forever.
A finale sounded much better.
But what? A slow smile spreads across her face.
Christmas Day comes and the angel still holds tightly to the tree. Gently swaying there, beautifully. The family seems to momentarily forget their ridiculous ritual. Angel breaking.
They forget as they rip open boxes of paper; brightly colored paper that carpets the floor. Suddenly it happens. Mother brings out a box; a clear box with a string. To protect. To safeguard. A monument to last forever. This last angel will not break. It will be preserved.
Ooohs and Awws fill the room. The perfect finale. Mother takes the last angel and carefully places it within its cage, sticking it with care to the bottom. Savouring this precious moment, she turns to place the memory box on the tree.
A piece of discarded wrapping paper was all it took. Her foot slips, she stumbles, as if in slow motion. Her eyes grow wide as the treasure slips from her grasp. The angel and the box hang in the air. Mother hits the ground first, then all at once, it happens. As if the tradition has a mind of its own, the box hits the ground. The last angel shatters within its own shield.
First shock. And stunned silence. Impossible!
Then that magical moment. The outburst of howling, almost delirious laughter. Floor pounding, snorting and roaring type laughter. Tears rolling down each face, unable to breathe sort of laughter. Wave after wave it continues. The kind that erupts from deep inside and goes on until all sides are aching.
Finally, as all good times do, the moment ends. For the very last time, Mother cleans up. It is all as it was meant to be.
There were nine. Nine golden angels made of glass.
Now, there are memories.