My most special Christmas ornament is a small blue angel. It is made out of inexpensive plastic and wood and is very simply painted. It has a small bell inside that makes a soft jingle when you shake it.

Bought long ago and made of plastic and wood, this ornament is nonetheless a family treasure. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Vachowski

This angel ornament is very old. It was a gift from my oldest brother, Greg, to our mom. He was about 7 years old when he bought it with his own money for the family Christmas tree.

My mother hung this ornament on her tree every year for about 50 years. We always had to listen to the story about her “special ornament from Greg” and pretended it was the first time we’d heard it. We thought it was kind of ugly and tacky, but we’d listen anyway, and appreciate the story more and more as we got older.

My mother passed away in October 2002 at the age of 85. Soon the long and difficult task of cleaning out her house and sorting and divvying up her belongings began. I decided that I would take her small artificial tabletop tree to use in my classroom, along with some furniture.

A couple weeks before Christmas that year, my other brother, Brian, drove from Massachusetts to Maine in a rental truck with the items I had claimed. The fake Christmas tree wasn’t even in a box, but it had permanently attached lights. I carried it into the house, and later to my car.

One evening a couple days later, I decided to bring it to school. I got it out of my car, set it down a couple times as I unlocked doors, and into the school. I could hear something jingling on the tree as I carried it to my classroom. “That’s strange,” I said to myself, as I couldn’t see anything that would make a noise.

As I set it on the table in the back of the room, I could hear the jingle again, so I closely examined the tree. Then I saw it. There was one ornament on it that had amazingly stayed on throughout the tree’s journey. It was the little blue angel. I burst into tears, wondering if my mom had simply forgotten to take it off – or, more likely, left it on the tree on purpose, knowing that one of us would find it when she was no longer with us. I knew right then and there that I was meant to have and to keep that angel.

Now it has become my tradition to put that angel on my tree every year. It is usually the first one I put on, and the last one I take off. I feel that it is there to watch over me and bring me peace. Eventually it will be passed on to one of Greg’s grandchildren, who I hope will remember and retell this story each year when they decorate their tree.

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