header photo

James R. Stout

The Tree Top Angel






The Tree Top Angel


James R. Stout


      It was a magical Christmas. Of course, every Christmas is magical when seen through the eyes of a 6 year-old child. The year was 1952 and a hard year it was for my family. My father spent the year in Korea. He would return to us by the Christmas of 1953, but that’s another story. On a chilly day about a week before Christmas my mother came home and told us she had a surprise in the car. Having our cages rattled, we scrambled around to don our coats and boots. The weather was typically wet and gray for December in Houston, Texas. My two sisters and I headed for the door with our coats unbuttoned and our boots half on. My older sister Beverly, a tomboyish 10 year-old, was the first to reach our ancient 1939 Ford. She stopped suddenly and her eyes drew wide as a soft “wow” escaped her lips. She was awe-struck by the sight of a 7-foot Scotch pine protruding from the trunk of the car.

     “Where’d ya get it, Mom?” she asked.

     “It came from Mr. Emmons at the church. He works for the Optimist Club and knows of our situation.” She replied

We could tell Mama was thinking of Daddy. My little sister Donna, who almost 3, came down the driveway like a runaway locomotive and ended up in a heap at Mama’s feet,

     “I don’t see nuttin’, Mommy!” She pouted.

     Mama lifted her up and Donna clapped her hands with delight. We all gave Mama more help than she wanted getting the tree inside. Donna started to cry when she saw the trail of pine needles from the car. She thought the tree was falling apart! After Mama set the tree in its stand we spent the evening decorating it with an odd assortment of ornaments. Most of them were several years old and a few were of the home made variety that only a parent can appreciate. But to us they were as beautiful as any brand new ornaments fresh from the local store.

     The most magical moment came when we thought we were finished. Mama smiled as she opened a paper sack from Rudy’s Five and Dime. She lifted out a beautiful angel holding a star. It was a tree top that had a battery operated light. We all stared at the little angel, mesmerized by its simple beauty. Mama told us to sit down on the braided rug by the tree and she began to speak as she held the angel in her hands.

     “This tree is fun and exciting, but there is something much more important about Christmas than a tree or Santa Claus or presents.” She paused for a moment and asked, “Do you remember why we celebrate Christmas?”

     “Because of Jesus.” Beverly replied.

     “Baby Jesus.” Donna said softly.

     “That’s right.” Mama said. “We must not forget the birth of our Lord.”

     Mama told us about the angels that appeared to the shepherds on that first Christmas and of the wise men that followed a star to see Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. She told us how Jesus was born, the Son of God, to save us from our sins. At last she stood up on a foot stool and placed the little angel on top of the tree. She flipped a small switch on the back of the angel and our little tree top angel was filled with light. We sat beneath that tree for what seemed like hours singing Christmas songs and sharing in the magic of the season.

     Christmas came and went and life settled back into its timeless march forward. The tree was discarded and the ornaments packed away for the next year. And, our special tree top angel was carefully wrapped in tissue paper and placed in one of the boxes in the attic.

     One day in early June of the next year Mama was outside hanging clothes on the clothesline. Beverly was gone to the store with her best friend while Donna and I were inside the house taking a nap. I vaguely remember a loud noise, but perhaps I only think I actually heard it. Nevertheless, a loud noise and explosion ripped our little house into shreds. A natural gas leak had been ignited by some unknown spark. I was told later that Mama had been hit by a flying board and knocked unconscious. Ten minutes later a fire truck came screaming down the gravel road toward our house. The firefighters saw Mama first and tended to her. They placed her in an ambulance, still unconscious, and started to sift through the rubble that had been our home. Donna and I had also both been knocked unconscious and we were buried beneath a mountain of twisted and broken boards and sheetrock. We were not visible to anyone.

     The firefighters, not knowing if anyone else had been in the house, had about decided Mama had been the only person at home at the time of the explosion. If they had left, Donna would have bled to death from a deep cut on her arm. But, as they began to leave one of the firefighters noticed a faint light beneath the pile of rubble. They began to dig down toward us. I awoke to see a pair of giant hands reaching down to pick me up. They found Donna beside me and rushed us both to the hospital. The fireman who had seen the light bent over and picked up the object that had caught his eye. It was the tree top angel. He absently slipped it into one of the large pockets of his overcoat.

     Two days later the fireman came to see us in the hospital. Donna had a broken arm as well as the deep cut. I had a concussion and two broken ribs while Mama also had a concussion. The fireman entered the hospital room where we were.

     “How can we ever than you?” Mama said.

     “Don’t thank me, Ma’am. Thank this.” He said as he pulled the little angel from a paper bag.

     Mama looked puzzled as he told us how the light had attracted his attention. He paused and then spoke very deliberately.

     “Mrs. Scott, a miracle happened with this little light.” He said.

     “How’s that?” Mama asked.

     “There were no batteries in the light, ma’am.” He said slowly.

     Mama’s eyes filled with tears as she remembered removing the batteries after Christmas so that they wouldn’t leak acid and ruin the little tree top angel. Mama then led us in a prayer of thanksgiving.

     On December 19, 1953 my family had much to be thankful for. We had all recovered from the explosion, we had just moved into a new home, and Dad was home. That night Mama told us the story of Jesus again. Then, as we all looked at my Dad with tears of joy in our eyes, he reached up and placed our little tree top angel on top of the tree.



Copyright © by James R. Stout


Go Back


Blog Search

Blog Archive