A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Avenue of the Angels

Shortly before Christmas, my daughter's school requested that the parents send in a story about what they remember most about Christmas when they were a kid. Interesting idea. The teacher would then read the parent's stories to the students. Cool. So, the following is the piece I wrote for a first grade class, with only a few changes. I was curious if the teacher or the school would take issue with my overt use of religion in the story. They did not. Yay!

The Avenue of the Angels

Christmas was a time of tradition for our family, as it is with many families. Nothing fancy, no huge events, but things you could count on. Things that, as a kid, you looked forward to every year. Presents were, naturally, at the top of this list. My brother, sister and I would wake up very early Christmas morning and head for the top of the stairs. We weren’t supposed to go downstairs without letting mom and dad know, and they were still sleeping. But from the top of the stairs we could see the Christmas tree. We could check to make sure Santa had come. We could see the stockings, nearly overflowing with goodies, and we could see the presents spread out around the base of the tree. The top of the stairs was a good place to be on Christmas morning. Once we made sure that Santa had once again made it to our house even though we did not have a fireplace, we would try to guess what was in the many packages. When the waiting became intolerable, most likely about fifteen minutes, we would wake up mom and dad, and we would all head downstairs together.

But while the presents were the thing I looked forward to the most as a kid, they are not what I most remember about Christmas. Instead, I remember being in Christmas pageants on Christmas Eve and walking down the center aisle in the church in my shepherd’s costume looking for my family and hoping I wouldn’t forget my lines. I remember gathering later on Christmas Eve at my grandparent’s house. The kids would sit on the floor in the living room, occasionally joined by a grown-up or two. We’d play with our new toys while the big people talked and laughed around us. Grandma always had lots of candy out, including chocolate-covered peanuts, my favorite. That night was one of the few times we got to eat pretty much all the candy we wanted, yet no matter how much we ate, the candy dishes were always full.

I also remember the drive from church out to grandma and grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve. We’d go a different way than we usually did, a longer way, and even though we could hardly wait to get there, nobody minded taking a little extra time. Because the longer way took us down the main street in the city of Appleton. The longer way took us down the Avenue of the Angels.

They started just as you went past Lawrence University campus—a beautiful place itself, with a huge lighted Christmas tree, lots of wreaths, and a life-sized nativity scene. They started just as you entered downtown Appleton. Angels hanging from every streetlight. Gold and white figures, made from what seemed like giant pipe-cleaners, that blazed with twinkling white lights. They had golden halos, and delicate wings, and they hung in the air on both sides of the street, some with harps and some with their hands clasped in prayer.

Everyone in the car would try to spot the first one, but dad usually saw them first. “There they are,” he’d say, or maybe just, “There.” We’d all look where he was pointing and maybe ooh or ahh a little. They weren’t new—we’d all seen them before—but there was something special about them on Christmas Eve, the most special of nights. On Christmas Eve you could picture them hovering in the air over that tiny stable in Bethlehem. Just waiting for Christ to be born.

The best parts of the Avenue of the Angels were the intersections. At the intersections there were angels stretched out from each of the four corners towards the center. They looked like they were flying, and each one held a golden trumpet to her lips. Above them, right in the middle of the intersection, was a huge, gold and white star. They were celebrating, and they wanted everyone to know why.

I hated leaving those angels behind every Christmas Eve, even though it meant we were almost to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The angels were worth waiting for every year because they were beautiful and because they were only there during the special time of the year when we celebrate Christ’s birth. They were, and are, special because they remind us what Christmas is all about—joy, hope, family, and most of all, love.
For more shots of the avenue of the angels, check out this site and keep scrolling down.

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