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Whittling Away: Christmas trees


By Dick Brooks

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of a man named Dick Brooks.

The Christmas tree is up, the lights are hung on it. The Queen loves the tree and couldn’t wait to get it up. 

We’ll wait until closer to the holiday before we put the rest of the decorations on. The only decoration on it until then is the little angel which sits atop the tree.

She’s sat on top of every Christmas tree I’ve had. My dad bought her for my first Christmas and we’ve been together at Christmas every year since. She is my most prized possession, the one thing I own that couldn’t be replaced.

She has no value to anyone else. No thief would ever be tempted to steal her. She has no monetary value. She probably cost less than a dollar when my father purchased her. Six inches or so high, basically a cardboard tube with a papier-mache head and hands, a few inches of shiny white cloth and a set of silver-painted cardboard wings. She has a silver belt and a silver headband like Wonder Woman used to wear. I really liked the headband when I was younger, thinking that angels were probably the first superheroes so the headband was appropriate. 

Her value lies in the fact that she’s a reminder. Reminders are important and as you age they become more valuable. Everybody has reminders, small treasures that are important to no one but them. 

I have a little treasure box with elementary art projects, crayon drawings done lovingly by small hands, Father’s Day cards, photos of my favorite young men and a beautiful young woman in younger days, a collar from a long dead canine friend, items of no value that are beyond value. They are reminders. You know, you’ve got them.

My angel is my Alpha reminder. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. In my younger years presents topped the list of important reasons for the holiday. I married and had children of my own and the focus shifted to them. They have left but the memories of Christmas Past didn’t. 

I have a special mental file I like to go visit occasionally, especially at this time of the year. It’s chock full of mental pictures, smells and happy sounds. My angel sitting on top of our tree is the key to that file. I look at her and she does her job, she reminds me.

Her little black paint dot eyes have seen me all the way from a pudgy 2-month-old up through senior citizen status. She’s seen my parent’s age and my children grow. She has gone from trinket to treasure. 

She was made before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. She was collecting memories before there was a Rudolph or a Frosty the Snow Man. She’s seen the coming of television and the dawning of the information era. 

She comes from a time before Christmas was commercialized. She has seen the coming of “Xmas” and “holiday” trees. She has heard the holy songs of the holiday change and lose their main focus. She has watched the Nativity scenes disappearing from public places. She has watched people start to apologize for the holy side of the holiday and still she stands proudly and holds her cardboard wings high. 

She is a reminder, not only of my personal memories but of the night her ancestors stood watch over a barn that had no bright lights except for a single star, no decorations or presents, just a simple family sheltering for the night.

I love my little old angel. She’s such a good reminder!

Thought for the week — “God Bless us — everyone” – Tiny Tim

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach columnist Dick Brooks at

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