The Christmas Angel Who Arrived Early

She'd planned her Christmas preparations down to the last detail, but she soon learned that even the best-laid plans can go awry—and that can be a very good thing.

- Posted on Dec 20, 2017

An artist's rendering of Molly's angelic tree topper

Ten more minutes. That was all the time I’d allotted for choosing a Christmas tree. I checked my watch again. “How about this one?” my husband, Val, asked. He turned the tree this way and that while I scrutinized it. The tree had to be full, no noticeable gaps, and just the right size for the new tree-topper I’d bought online. All my decorating centered around that angel this year.

“I like this one!” nine-year-old Phineas said, jumping up to bat the highest branch he could reach. His four-year-old sister, Dari, stroked the needles with her fingers.

“That’s the one,” I said. Phineas and Dari clapped. Val picked up the tree to carry it to the register. Five minutes to spare.

I had our Saturday all planned out. Pick out a tree from the sale for the volunteer fire department. Bring it home, where the ornaments were already laid out and waiting. Dari had helped me take everything out the night before: carolers made of yarn, wooden ice skater, blown glass robot. I’d even untangled the lights. We’d have all afternoon to trim the tree.

“Make sure they only trim two inches off the top,” I called to Val. “No more, no less!”

While he was doing that I got the kids into the car to save time. Maybe I should have watched them trim it, I thought. I had to make sure there would be just the right amount of room for our tree-topper.

She wouldn’t arrive for another week or so. The plan was to have the tree finished long before she got here. When I saw her online, on the site of the artist who made her, I knew she was perfect. She was black and wore an opulent red gown, had gorgeous feather wings. Best of all the angel looked a lot like Dari, my only daughter. What better angel could sit on our family tree?

I got into the car and looked at my watch. Val seemed to be taking an awfully long time. Finally, I saw him strolling to our car, but where was the tree?

“Free delivery!” he said.

“That will take too long,” I said.

“No need to worry,” he said. “It’s going in the next truckload. This way I don’t have to strap it onto the car roof myself.”

Val wasn’t anxious at all—but then, he rarely was. He was good at going with the flow. He was nothing like me. I made plans and lists. Organized and scheduled. I liked to be in control. Was that so bad?

Back home an hour later, I threw Val a reproachful glance. The tree still hadn’t arrived. Dari fiddled with the ornaments and the lights. To keep myself from fiddling too, I went to get the mail. At least this is on time, I thought. I looked up and down the street. No sign of our tree.

“I’m going to drive back to the tree stand,” I announced. “Ask them what’s up.”

“They’ve probably got it loaded on the truck already,” said Val. “I’m sure it’s on its way.”

I looked at my family. Dari was happily playing with the ornaments in the “unbreakable” pile. Phineas was nestled in a chair with a book. Val was stretched out on the couch with his feet up. I couldn’t sit still. An hour went by. Then another. Outside the sky turned dark. Inside nothing was happening. Nothing!

Finally, the doorbell rang and I hurried to answer it. Two men held our long-awaited tree. “Delivery includes a fresh cut,” one of them said. “We’ll put it in the stand too.”

Val jumped off the couch, rested after all that time. “Great!” he said.

The guys took their time about it. I had to leave the room before I blew my stack. No wonder they were late—no urgency. Didn’t they know it was Christmas? No time to dally. At last they called me back to look. “What do you think?” one of the men asked, proudly showing off his work.

I gasped. The tree was way too short! I’d planned for the angel to stand just a few inches below the ceiling. This was all wrong. Why had they cut so much off? All my plans were falling through.

“Thanks a lot,” I said, forcing a smile. I walked them to the door, mentally figuring out how much decorating we could do before dinner. I didn’t want the day to be a total loss.

One of the tree guys bent down to pick up a big box on the porch. He glanced at the label. “You got a delivery,” he said, handing it to me.

When did this arrive? It hadn’t come with the mail. It wasn’t there when the tree guys arrived. I hadn’t heard anyone on the porch while they were here. Besides, who delivers on a Saturday night?

I brought the package inside. Val cut it open. Phineas and Dari watched eagerly as I pulled back layers of tissue.

“My angel!” I said. Dari gasped. Phineas stared. I hadn’t told them about the angel I’d ordered. I wanted it to be a surprise—a week from now.

“It looks like nobody’s sticking to your schedule,” said Val.

I sighed. The tree was late and the angel was early, but I supposed the timing had worked out perfectly.

Val lifted the angel out of the box. She was beautiful—but also way bigger than I’d imagined. Twice the size she had looked on the website. I guessed I hadn’t read the measurements carefully enough.

Val climbed the step ladder and placed her on the tree—the tree the delivery guys had cut way too short.

“She fits just right!” Dari said.

“Just right,” I agreed. If the men had trimmed the tree as I wanted she wouldn’t have fit at all.

“Can we decorate the tree now?” Dari asked.

I glanced at the clock. I had planned to start setting the table. But I was through trying to make things follow my schedule. Angels were always on time.

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