The kitchen seemed like the easiest place to start. After my mother died last year, my sister and I set out to clear her house, room by room. I thought the pantry would be pretty straightforward, so I opened the door and surveyed the shelves.
My mother’s pantry: stockpiled with “just in case” supplies left untouched for years. I wanted to make short work of this job and get on with the rest of it. But a little black box tucked away in the farthest corner of one shelf, nearly hidden behind ancient cans of soup and boxes of petrified teabags drew my attention. My mother had hidden her jewelry in unlikely places, so this box might contain a precious pair of earrings – or it could be empty. I reached for the box and opened it carefully.
There she was: a wax angel who had rested peacefully in the pantry for over 30 years. I remembered this little candle, rescued from her hiding place in a cake mix box: an angel with blue wings, lost in slumber in the curve of a crescent moon. Her toes peek out from the hem of her long white gown; her mouth is a small red dot. Angel food was my favorite cake when I was growing up, and my mother always made one for my birthday, upending the pan over a giant 7-Up bottle to cool.
My teen years were turbulent ones. Many mornings I slammed the door and huffed off to school, my stomach in knots, with angry words buzzing in my head. One day, I came home and found an angel food cake waiting for me. A small plastic button that said “You’re an angel” was left out where I was sure to see it. Neither of us apologized for the words spat out in anger that day, but the angel food cake did the job better than words could have anyway.
Why did my mother keep the dainty angel all those years? Did she even remember it was there? Had she thought about giving it to me and changed her mind? I wasn’t much of an angel in those days, so perhaps the sleeping winged figure was happy to bide her time in the dark closet, away from confrontations and awkward apologies. Was she waiting for me to find her these many years later – a mother and a grandmother myself now?
I had found the one thing that brought back vivid memories of the place where I spent my tumultuous teen years. The fights, the silences, the things left unsaid until too late, the final slamming of the door, the new life I started, and the old one I left behind – all echoed through that empty house.
I put the angel in my pocket and brought her home. She reminds me to say what needs to be said, and not to wait for the moment that may never come. She sleeps, undisturbed, on her sliver of moon. Her job is done, and now she rests.
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