NHT's Writing Desk

 
Gabriel
archangel in denim

i feel compelled to share that her elder sister
is equally talented art-wise as this story illustrates ...

when the kids were growing up, every year brought the same question:
“mom, what do you want for christmas?”
and every year much to the chagrin of my children,
the answer would always be the same: “i want world peace” 
which of course was met with grunts and groans ...
one year though in deference to the previous year's complaints, i gave a different answer -
that year a day or two before the inevitable question was asked,
i’d thumbed through a religious item catalogue that had come in,
and my eye was caught by a 2’ x 4’ tapestry of Gabriel for $340.00 -
so i told them, "this, this is I want this for Christmas”
and amidst the expected outburst of “Mama, are you serious?” and “No way”
i laughed and defended myself, “Hey, at least i didn’t ask for world peace this year” –

the only one not engaged in the uproar was my eldest -
she’d hung back and was thumbing through the catalogue pages …

fast forward to Christmas morning –
family custom is to give your main gift last -
so it was with the livingroom clearly covered in post-present-opening shambles,
that my eldest daughter and my godson told me they have ‘one more’ for me,
and handed me a gift wrapped in a blanket because “there wasn’t enough paper left."

This is what was hidden in the blanket…

…an exact 2’ x 4’ replica of the catalogue tapestry image
done with what they had on hand

inspired by my awestruck reaction they explained excitedly …
while my eldest used her skills to duplicate the tapestry icon onto posterboard,
(and afterwards tediously cut it out),
my godson found and stained some wood for the background,
onto which, hoping to give it a tapestry feel, they glued black fabric and cording, 
and edging it all with a ribbon richly embroidered in the very classic Greek key pattern…
onto all those preparations they then carefully glued the clipped image of Gabriel …

Sharing her experience working on the image, my eldest said that
as she began the painting, Gabriel appeared to her, 
first, to help her with the work 
(iconography is no small easy task, usually takes years to master)
and second, to ask her to deliver a message to me on Christmas morning, 
which she told me is what she was doing, and straight out asked me, 
did I know that Gabriel was my guardian angel?  

i ignored the hair that stood up on the back of my neck and nodded silently, if rather embarrassed. 
i didn’t explain that since childhood, I’d long suspected Gabriel to be my guardian angel, 
my first clue being that my birthday is the Feast of the Annunciation (when Mary received her divine visitor) … 
but I’d never completely admitted to it, feeling instead rather unworthy -- 
after all, who am i to think i rank an archangel? so that as i got older, 
i’d pretty much written off the whole thing as grandiose hallucinations 
with which“Lost Ones are wont to play … 
still,  i couldn’t deny that no-one knew my suspicions 
including my 15 year old daughter, which made her story all the more significant. 
She went on, saying Gabriel was hurt that I hadn’t acknowledged him.  
She said, he thought it was because he preferred to appear in more modern day dress 
(apparently, jeans are a favourite…), 
and that he thought that my expectations about the way he should look kept me from ‘seeing’ him. 
She said he told her that that was why he’d come to help her with the icon painting, 
to honour my expectations borne of Catholic sensibilities … 
Needless to say I was stunned. 
I confessed to having had reticence to admit what I knew in my heart to be true, 
and that ultimately my downfall was feeling unworthy.  
I also set her straight on whatever expectations had been perceived as mine,
saying that in truth I didn’t have any expectations at all about his appearance, 
and rather found the idea endearing of an archangel wearing jeans. 

i held silent though on being probably one of his most trying charges, 
and privately chastised myself for managing to upset an archangel … 
imagine!  of all the crazy things I’ve ever done, that must be the most insane!!  
Later, alone, I offered heartfelt thanks and humble apologies to the archangel.  
I believe I received forgiveness ...
on my very next birthday, three months later to the day exactly, 
  as is my nightly prayer custom, i was outside visiting the stars in the dark stillness 
when suddenly i heard a rustling above my head way beyond the honeysuckle
and unmistakenly felt a feathered wing apexed in the sky 
enfolding itself around me and drawing me in so close 
that I could hear the heartbeat of what I recognized as an angel.  

When I looked up, Gabriel’s smile filled the night sky.
It was amazing.


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