“History is an Angel,” by laura k kerr

Shadows and darkness obscure my memory of playing an angel in the Christmas Pageant at my Episcopalian kindergarten. I watch my younger self as if from the rafter backstage, shining a spotlight in search of the past. I pan from the stained, mustard yellow curtain to the manger filled with bail hay and baby Jesus, find teachers shepherding the usual strays to their places, and then me, alone in the corner worshiping the wings made of white feathers that is my costume. For weeks I wanted to wear nothing else and fought for the chance — stomped my feet, cried, promised to keep them and my room clean, and when all failed, accused mom of being a bad mother. It was lost on me how unangelic my attempts were.

Head down deep in study, my small fingers explored every vane of the wings’ feathers, devouring them with touch. I filled with warmth when my teacher dropped the attached gown over me and the wings settled into place. The sensation was my epiphany of divine perfection. I had found the missing piece and it was visible for all to see.

I remember that day, a north star I glimpse greedily, like a sailor on a dark sea journey lost under a clouded sky on a windless night. I was once the child who loved the center of attention, but on that day, I gladly let go of the limelight (that would be the part of Mary) to be the angel, and what I believed my truest embodiment. That is also the last memory I have from before my mind learned the trick of split viewing, one moment in my body, the next above it, a dance I now understand as the absence of grief.

Always the memory is hard to hold. There I am, shuffling in a line of costumed kids, my angel wings bobbing. Blonde curls mom rolled that morning bounce softly beneath a foil halo. Then darkness swirls around me and I am alone. Eventually I am but a brief speck of white light before I completely disappear. But Yahweh can still be heard. “This one, she’s mine.”