The little angel that could.


Sometimes, we’re surprised by what sparks joy.

In my living room, I have a glass cabinet where we keep wine glasses, fancier tea cups and some other little tschotskes. As you might imagine, I’m not a fan of tschotskes, but many of them were gifts or things I feel too guilty to get rid of.

I felt especially guilty because this little knick-knack haven was an affront to the advice that I give clients - to let go of what doesn’t spark joy. I even wrote a whole blog post on how to let go of gifts, for Pete’s sake.

So, I decided to tackle it and rid myself of this double-whopper of a guilt trap once and for all.

Among the knick-knacks was a little porcelain angel.

I took it in my hand and looked it over. I knew my grandmother had given it to me, but other than that, I didn’t remember much about it. It had my birth month and my birthstone. The little porcelain rose was chipped.

As I examined it, I asked myself all of the questions that I always ask my clients.

Does it spark joy? No, it sparked guilt.

Does it remind you of the qualities that you loved about your grandmother? No, it reminds me of a Hallmark store.

What are you feeling? A little nostalgia, but mostly guilt.

And then, I turned it over.

In her delicate handwriting, she had written:

A.H.J.    3-27-80 With Love, “ME”.

This was followed by a delicate drawing of leaves.

All of a sudden, this angel represented so much more. It was given to me on my third birthday. It had her handwriting. It showed the funny way that she always put “me” in quote. I could picture her shrugging her shoulders in self-deprecation, as she always did. It had one of her signature little drawings, which she added to letters, envelopes and her diary, to give every day things a little flourish.

And most importantly, it said “with love”.

My grandmother never liked to say “I love you”. She said she preferred to just show it. We would say “I love you”. And she would say “thank you.”

But here it was: “with love.”

And at once, I knew that, yes, this little knick-knack did carry special memories of my grandmother. It had just been living in the wrong place, forgotten and dusty.

So I rescued it from its sad home in tschotske purgatory and placed it on the top shelf of my bathroom vanity mirror.

And now, every morning, I get to remember summers on the farm. I remember picking blackberries and riding a bicycle-built-for-two with my sister around the huge tree at the center of my grandmother’s roundabout. I remember her watching and smiling from the swing, sometimes us giving a self-deprecating little shrug.

And THAT sparks joy.