Dear Aunt Anne, I wrote in childish script from my assigned post at the kitchen table, thank you for the Christmas tree ornaments. They are very pretty. And they were lovely -- four petite, white porcelain angels trumpeting and heralding in joy. I'd suspended them separately by their thin gold strands on the enormous Douglas fir scraping the family room ceiling, careful to hang them just high enough so the dogs couldn't knock them down. Each little angel felt like my very own treasure sent from far away but dear-to-heart Godmother Anne. And so it was, every year.
"Is that all you're going to say?" my mother would ask from the stove as I paused over the thank you note. "Tell her what you're doing."
So I would, filling the front, back, and sometimes side spaces of the card with my momentary adventures. While I wrote, I always felt she loved me and absolutely would nurture this only child of only-children parents if tragedy should separate my small family. I could tell she cared about the piano competitions of a young Jersey girl and would eagerly read the sprawled accounts. And I wondered why she sent angels and other keepsakes, faithfully early enough to cherish each wrapped package in its place under the tree before Christmas, even long after she danced on my wedding day.
Remembering Aunt Anne brings a smile. She was full of warmth and light in my mind, sweetly supportive and happy to connect. I spoke with her last on the phone about a year ago, and we smiled to each other long distance as we caught up on family doings. She encouraged me in my pursuits even as I was insisting, "But tell me about you." And she did, about her family she adored and their shared closeness. When we hung up, I inexplicably found tears in my eyes... but of happiness.
This year, there will be a pause when my family lifts the angels out of their box, just as there's a stop when I handle the door pillow announcing "The Prince is Sleeping!" Anne humorously sent at Luke's birth four years ago. And when we place the special ornaments at their usual tippy-top spot on the tree (nothing above them but the treetop angel, is the rule), I'll tell my four perfect little angels -- Amanda, Madeleine, Brielle, and Luke -- about my darling Godmother all over again... like I do every year. Or maybe the oldest, Amanda, will tell it this year.
Love you, Aunt Anne. You are missed. Look down on us, watch over us, and know you are sweetly remembered.