A number of years ago, on a sparkle bright January morning, I drove the half kilometre or so to the place where Christmas trees are brought to be mulched after their service.
I am always sad doing this and to be honest, a bit misty eyed as I pull that most welcome of Christmas guests out of the boot of my car and haul it across to join the others waiting to complete their cycle.
It’s surprising then, that in this state that morning, I spotted in the gravel a little christmas tree decoration. A tiny wooden skiing angel. I picked him up and noticed he had only one wing and was mising his ski sticks but in this sad graveyard he stood out and somehow shone bright with the spirit of the festivity he’d been witness to in someone’s home over the past few weeks – and quite possibly many Christmasses before that.
I couldn’t bear to think that this precious ornament, in all probability lovingly hung in a carefully considered place on a family’s tree, had been overlooked when it came to dismantling it and returning the decorations to their place of rest until next year. I imagined it lit up with twinkling lights and the reflected sparkle from baubles and tinsel. Perhaps children chased each other around it, a family dog barked and sniffed at it, visiting neighbours marveled at it as they caught up with each other’s festive plans for the big day.
I held the delicate little ski angel - tiny, broken and lost and for a moment I wished to turn back time and like a film running in reverse, pull my tree back out of the pile, return it to its place at the heart of my home, draw my family back together to me once more, their smiling faces reflecting the tree lights like heartbeats, beating out a rhythm of those precious, treasured hours of gold, those jewelled few days when love shines bright like the star at the top of the tree.
Perhaps it was the thought of my darling daughter, now returned from her Christmas visit home to her own darling in London that this little tree angel, almost lost, suddenly became my treasure. I would take him home and he would continue living on our kitchen shelf all year round enjoying the family life that goes on throughout the whole year.
Every now and then over the past few years, my eye is drawn to him on the shelf, perhaps when I’m washing dishes after a Sunday brunch or stirring a sauce for a supper with friends. Then for a moment, Christmas hangs in the air and I’m reminded that our family will be together again.
This year he’s especially precious. We know that our love for each other is not just for Christmas but it can feel that if we can’t continue the traditions and rituals of bygone years that it somehow won’t be the same. But this year, we have learned to adapt, to do things differently and many family members will not make it home as usual.
This year when Christmas is over, I’ll carefully replace the Christmas decorations into their storage boxes before returning them to the attic. The little ski angel will once again take up his place on the kitchen shelf but I've decided he’ll be joined by another of the sparkling tree ornaments. The star, a symbol of hope, light and divine guidance will also ramain with the family. As I consider it throughout the year to come, its light will shine bright from the heart of our home out across the the land and over the sea to the place where our own precious darling herself shines bright.
……..and all in good time, it will lead her safely home.