Christmas Card 2018

For those who know me, my Christmas Card arriving in February is somewhat of a tradition — well, February might even be a bit early!
Christmastime itself is a time to be fully present. I enjoy this time of year with my partner and with my big Italian Family from all parts of the globe, as well as friends in different locations.
We still decorate our home in a way that requires several days to put up and several days to take down, and of course, we celebrate all Twelve Days of Christmas.
Somewhere in that experience, I will invariably experience some spark to my Soul of something I would like to share with everyone!
This year, I was stricken by the possibility of angels. Not as occurring in a separate time and place, or long ago, but amidst and amongst the physical realities of simple family gatherings and amongst time together with friends.
And so,

inspired by that feeling and awareness of the laws of physics and the metaphysical intertwining with our physical lives, I offer the following short story for a wintry weekend.
Christmas is about Kindness and Love and “God with us!” These are joyous things to live throughout the year.
So, perhaps you would like to make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, or bubbling herbal tea, or some delightful warm beverage, and celebrate these beautiful warm feelings by taking twenty minutes or so to enjoy this little story.
As always, this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead (or metaphysical), or actual events, known or unknown, is purely coincidental.

 

Seraph

by Arnold J. Mungioli

“It had a huge tear, but we were able to fix it by taping it in the back, and then we covered the tear with the ribbon from the bow, cascading down from the wreath. You can’t even tell!” said Clara.

“You reuse your door foil? But, mannaggia! How do you get it off without tearing it from the year before?” Vera asked.

Masking Tape. Don’t use Scotch Tape!” Clara replied, nodding. “That’s the secret!”

“I think you’re all mezza-stunad!” Lydia told them. “Door Foil! Who has time for that? And where I am, the weather would ruin it anyway! A wreath on the door, that’s all they get! And numu sfogt!” Lydia was the only one who had a house. The other three were in apartments. They all had created homes for their families, and that was what really mattered.

“I put something up on the door, but I can’t do all that with the doorfoil. First of all, you have to cut around the locks and the peephole and the doorknob. And it’s not really the size of a door, so then you’re cutting the paper, and to try to get an even edge… We have a Santa on the door.” Rosalie offered.
“Is it big?” Clara asked. “Does it cover the door?”
Ghistu gattz, It’s that one, you know — it’s plastic — like a mosaic of bright colored plastic pieces. You see it in all the stores now. It looks cute on the door. I like it. Besides,” Rosalie shrugged, “I’m on the inside most of the time. We don’t see it!”

It was Christmas Eve and all four sisters had gathered at Mama’s. “The men,” as they were referred to, were in the living room playing cards and smoking, as was their way. The men didn’t have that much in common and they would not really have chosen one another as friends, but having found themselves related as in-laws, they found ways to get along and built their relationship through cards and smoking. It had become their routine Sundays and holidays at Mama’s. They would always be there for one another if any of them needed anything, as all four were World War II Veterans, and their sense of duty, honor and valor was well above what their middle-aged paunchy and bad-kneed appearances might immediately suggest. But this Christmas Eve, it was cards, cigarettes (and one cigar which only Lydia’s husband could afford) to pass the time.

All four women knew that what was ahead of them to do this night was as big a task as any of the year — and as each of them was raising several children, that was saying something. They each had to get home as early as they could, get their two to six children to sleep, get the tree up, get the rest of their gifts wrapped, and be prepared to be awakened ungodly early for the biggest, brightest, most beautiful morning of the year. They had been preparing for weeks, yet there was still so much ahead of them tonight. But Mama was getting older, and the traditional seafood dinner was important to her, so the women had decided that this year, they would have the dinner at her apartment early on Christmas Eve before each headed back home for the evening. As it was, Mama would visit all four homes on Christmas Day, and it had become apparent that her doing that two days in a row would have been too much for her now. All four sisters pitched in together to cook the meal, and wash and dry the dishes, so that they could finish up quickly. They worked together in the kitchen with the synchronicity of Italian-American Women of that era, and the entire North Pole filled with Santa’s elves had nothing on them!

So it is with Christmas — we find a way to honor our traditions and keep them in whatever way is possible — rarely ideal, and it’s not supposed to be perfect. Sometimes it’s just some fried shrimp and scallops, and a quick linguini vongole, on a Christmas Eve late afternoon, with the meal wrapped up by 6pm, so that you can make it back home. The important thing, of course, is the people — our loved ones, whether it’s dinner with Mama, dinner with the kids, dinner for the spouse, or some combination of all these. Celebrations may often be patched together like snippets of colorful fabric that might be used to decorate a wreath. And even though mismatched and at times confusing and a bit too hectic and all-over-the-place, there is great beauty and deliciousness to be found in it!

It seemed like this would be a good way to fit everything in, without so much pressure on Mama, now in her seventies, to travel around to four different areas of New York and Long Island in the same day, twice in a row. But the women, themselves, now in their fifties and into their sixties, did not realize how much extra work it would be for them, and the preparation of the meal at Mama’s had left them a bit tired. Still, like most housewives and mothers of this era, they were SuperHeroes! And when it came to la famiglia, there was no occasion to which they failed to rise.

Now, with the dishes done, the four sisters were sitting around the kitchen table, having heated up la maganette, and enjoying an espresso with lemon peel and a shot of anisette to recharge for the evening. Mama was sitting quietly in a corner of the smoke-filled living room, dozing off. The conversation drifted, as it often does on Christmas Eve, to dreaming about Christmas Morning, and that for which they might wish.

Lydia said she wanted something rich. She was mostly thinking about a new car. The upholstery on the current Lincoln Continental had gotten dusty, and it was of some luxurious fabric that seemed to collect every piece of lint and made it difficult to get out, so to her eye it showed. A new car would be just the thing. But she would be just as happy with a new gold ring, or another set of diamond earrings. A new appliance would be less satisfying, but still fill the bill. All she knew was that she wanted something rich. Though by most standards of the period, she would be seen as upper-middle-class, she loved to feel rich.
Rosalie wanted something sexy! Although she was okay with being a wife and a mother, and was quite good in both roles, she was also tall and her bosom was still voluptuous; she understood her assets and missed the days of wild sex — truth be told, she was way too young for her appetite to have quelled even slightly. She loved to feel sexy!
Vera’s wish was to get through it! It was overwhelming to her, her health being what it was. This life was way more than any of them had signed up for as they were all living as daughters some ten to twenty years earlier, feeling so free — now they were wives and mothers. Their day-to-day responsibilities often seemed more than could reasonably be expected of anyone. When Christmas came around, the reality of all that had to be done in a truncated period of time was daunting to her. And while she both adored and appreciated much of the season, taking great delight in the twinkling lights, the abundant food, and all the holiday traditions, each year it seemed to get a little bit harder. Nowadays, her joyful anticipation was mixed with cautious trepidation. Back then of course, the season only lasted a week and a half from start to finish, so she was able to manage. Though it was a physical challenge for her, it was more about getting her mind around it.
Clara hoped for something nice. She was happy. And truly, the simplest thing would bring her joy. It did not need to be expensive — just something nice. Like so many women of this period back when America celebrated a strong middle class, she learned to make her home and feed and clothe her children inexpensively, but with great taste, so it gave the impression of being something more than it was. And her appreciation for something nice was quite profound, whether it was something one of her children made for her, some piece of jewelry, a piece of china, or even a kind gesture… she loved movies too. Truth be told, she found so many things nice that her wish would not be difficult to fulfill.

“They had some scientist on WNEW Radio a few weeks ago,” Clara reported, “And something about how when the earth first came into being there were all these explosions in space — the stars exploded apart into dust, and so the earth and all of us, are actually made of stardust. That’s what they said; we’re made of stardust. This expert — I think they called him an astrophysicist — that’s what he said.”

“ So are we supposed to glow then?” Rosalie asked. “Do we light up?”
“So we’re made of rocks?” Vera asked, lighting a cigarette. “Aduzipazz! No wonder I can’t lose any weight!”
“They call it the Big Bang Theory,” Lydia explained. “I teach that to the fifth graders. It’s part of the science period. It doesn’t mean that we’re stars. We’re mostly water, actually. And dust. You know, on Ash Wednesday when the priest says, ‘To dust you shall return?’ The dust is ground up rocks — whether they’re rocks that were once stars or not…” and she shrugged it off. Lydia was the oldest.
Clara, who was the youngest, brushed off her older sister from stealing her joy. “Well, I think it’s a very nice thing. I think there’s so much we don’t know.”
“You got that right,” agreed Vera.
“And why wouldn’t we be made of stardust?” Clara went on. She had an endless appetite for learning new things.

What happened next is difficult to describe. Imagine the thud of something the size of a Mack Truck landing suddenly, unexpectedly, on the fire escape directly outside your bedroom window while you are in the next room. The four women were given quite a start.
AvisidaMammada!” Vera exclaimed!
Assai!” the other three echoed flatly, and in unison.
Each imagined it to be something entirely different, but their imaginations could not begin to get close to what had just happened. Whatever it was, they all jumped from the table and headed toward the bedroom — each of them a mother, it was their automatic response to rush into the fray and put first whomever they discovered might be in need. These women did not think of themselves first — there wasn’t even a hint of fear, and although each of them was on some level aware that there might be some danger involved, they had all faced danger before. It was the 1970’s and it was 230th Street in the Bronx. Their parents had all emigrated from Italy to America, taking slow-moving boats to a strange new country and facing untold risk to raise them here. In that tradition, they raised their children fearlessly. They were frightened of nothing. Still, this was scary.
Did the men not hear it? Could they possibly have been so absorbed in their card game? There was laughter and drinking and cigarettes and one cigar. But that noise… Perhaps whatever was about to happen was not meant for them. Make no matter…
All four women were up from their chairs around the kitchen table and rushing right to the bedroom window to see what had happened. Their four heads seemed to peer through the glass at the exact same moment and their eight eyes widened largely, as they saw something so unfathomable taking up the entire fire escape — a figure, of some sort, perhaps. A man, maybe — a person, perchance…Was it an animal? Vera thought it might be an elephant. Rosalie thought it might be the biggest fattest half man/ half gorilla — kinda’ sexy gorilla — that she’d ever seen. Lydia thought about the cost of fixing whatever had happened or would break as a result, and was not that interested in the well being of this creature. Clara was shocked at what she saw, and although she couldn’t tell what it was, she knew that if it were a living creature of some kind, it would need some attention and some care and some help. “Are you OK?” she asked.
The gargantuan creature was making rapid gasps, the breathing pattern of suffering. Something audible — not words — eventually distilled into language that they could understand. One elongated syllable, “Nooooo,” came the reply.
It is not that it didn’t occur to them to run and get the men for help. It crossed each of their minds, just momentarily, as might be natural in such a situation. The possibility that the men could not have heard what was going on seemed unfathomable, by any of the laws of physics. So they might come rushing in at any moment, anyway. But, like so many women of the day and throughout history, these phenomenal women made a choice at every turn to write their LifeStories of their own indomitable strength and courage and willingness to change; were it not for this retelling, this might be another such story of which you never heard. Besides, it was becoming clear that not all the laws of physics applied in this moment — though some of them did. Lydia’s husband had just won a hand, which he liked very much. The other men folded, and he reached out to take the pot of nickels and dimes. He puffed his cigar, and was most pleased. There were a few mumbles of “stanna mabaytch!”
Nothing is, except as our perception makes it so.

Clara and Vera reached outside to roll the creature over and try to get him set more comfortably. “Fanabola!” Vera exclaimed, as he was even heavier than they’d thought. Rosalie and Lydia joined the effort. As they finally turned him over, two glorious wings unfurled that were at once majestic and terrifying. The women shrieked, as it was now clear that this creature was not human, in spite of the initial resemblance having caused the women to think that he might be. He was also, when not crouched together, three times the size of any man — a fierce and unwieldy presence.
“Fear Not!” he bellowed.
Clara, Vera, Rosalie and Lydia having been raised Catholic recognized these words as what any angel says throughout the Bible’s stories when they first appear to anyone on earth. It was not until this precise moment that they figured out this was because an angel could be a huge and frightening presence — enough so as to instill the first response of fear. In spite of having read this greeting in so many chapters of the Bible over the years, they had always imagined angels as tame and gentle creatures. At least three of them had had the picture up in their own children’s nurseries of the two little children being guided across the bridge by their guardian angel, a gentle and feminine presence all in white. It was a very popular print at the time.
This angel was nothing like that. This one was a powerful masculine presence. He seemed menacing — perhaps threatening, or perhaps an enticingly more sexual force — less peaceful and more raging — at any rate, nothing to which anyone would want to spend too much time in close proximity, let alone four mortal women. There was an undercurrent of something stimulating about the creature, but every one of them dismissed these feelings as quickly as they had appeared, perhaps mostly because of the possibility of danger. Or perhaps it was the possibility of danger that made it feel so stimulating.
“Nice gul!” Rosalie muttered to her sisters.
Ma che Bell’! But you’re wounded.” Clara pointed out, gesturing toward a noticeable tear in the creature’s wing.
“No!” the Creature rolled its eyes sarcastically. “I just thought it’d be fun to stop by your fire escape to, I don’t know, maybe take a nap on the biggest event in the history of the world!” Then, in a booming voice which seemed more natural to its presence, “Yes! I’m wounded! Can’t you see? I’m torn!” the flapping of one of the creature’s wings stirred a wind that felt as if it would blow down the third avenue el, half a block away.
“Get him something to eat!” Vera pronounced, and she and Rosalie went directly to the kitchen to retrieve the pan of baked meatballs that was always in Mama’s oven on Sunday and holiday afternoons in the event of unexpected guests that evening, or in case someone was still “hungry” after dinner — not that that would be possible. “Grandma’s magic oven,” the children called it. And yes, everyone had just eaten a large seafood dinner which had nothing to do with this. Food was the solution to most things in this household, and it usually worked.
“Do you need help?” Lydia asked him, quite tentatively.
“Yes!” the creature replied, feeling more vulnerable than it would have liked. “Would you… are you… able to help repair my wing?”
“I think Mama has some mercurochrome in the medicine cabinet,” and she retreated toward the bathroom.
“Just rest,” Clara told him, adding in a comforting maternal tone. “It’s going to be all right!”
“I am due to announce the Birth of the Savior!” he retorted in his booming intimidating sound. “I am one of the seraphim! I must be there. It is not going to be ‘all right’!”
“But it will,” she reassured him in a calming tone she had perfected raising four children. “It’s all going to work out. You’ll see.” Her sincere belief of this calmed him.
Vera and Rosalie returned with a pan of meatballs, and half a loaf of bread left over from dinner. “Here. Mangia! You’ll feel better!” they told him.
“I am not hungrrr,” he started to say, but then stopped himself as he looked at the very unique Meatballs, baked and breaded. “Is that bacon on top?” he asked. “Yes!” the three of them encouraged him, with wide smiles.
“So much for the idea that angels don’t eat,” Rosalie mumbled under her breath. “At least we know that angels eat pigs.”
“Shhhh!” Clara and Vera gently slapped her arm.
“I’m just saying it’s good to know,” Rosalie commented, again under her breath.
Lydia returned with the mercurochrome, a tube of bacitracin, a roll of gauze bandages and a large roll of adhesive tape, just in time to see him devour the tray of meatballs and the half loaf of bread.
“You were hungry,” Lydia commented. Then she added, smiling, “morte vamm!” a bit surprised at how quickly he was able to down all that.
“No,” Rosalie commented sardonically, “He was not hungry. He told us that.” Then, she added under her breath, “I’d hate to see him when he is hungry,” miming large shoulders with her arms and mouthing to her sisters, inaudibly but exaggeratedly, “Gaguzzalonga!”
“I cannot taste it!” he confessed. “But I can tell that they are deliziosa!”
“What a waste!” Vera noted, shrugging.
“Shhhhh!” Clara reprimanded her, then asking the angel, “What do you mean you cannot taste it?”
“That is a privilege reserved for you. It’s for mortals — those with a physical body, with all six senses. So you can taste and see and smell and hear and feel, plus there’s your intuition. Most of you take all that for granted as if it’s no big deal. You don’t realize. You dwell on the downside — the knees giving out, the excess weight, the arthritis setting in, the way it all breaks down as you lose your physical abilities. But you — most of you — don’t appreciate having these senses while you do! If you only knew how many of us in the infinite want what you have, how we tried for it, and how you won!”
“This body?” Vera laughed. “Aduzipazz! You want this body?” You can have it!”
All the sisters spoke at once, overlapping.
“You act like we have so much!” Lydia commented, waving him away. “Strunz, we are poor. We struggle every day just to make ends meet. And you talk like it’s some kind of privilege!”
“I know,” Clara whispered quietly affirming her understanding of what the angel was teaching them; she was not heard by her sisters, but the angel heard her clearly, above the others.
“Hey, if I can taste bacon and you can’t,” Rosalie offered, I’d say I’m doing pretty good!” Then she added, curiously, “You can’t feel anything?”
Another very noticeable difference between angels pictured in art, and the one caught on their fire escape was that this one on their fire escape was not clothed — no delicate loincloth, and no flowing robes — just a raw powerful visceral beauty that felt like it scorched the retina. And while he declared that he lacked bodily senses, his form was, in a word, magnificent; one might say that he bestowed heightened bodily senses of all kinds to any human who looked upon him, although, needless to say, such instances of encounters with humans were exceedingly rare, at least as far as we know. He was beautiful like Michelangelo’s David and sexy like a gladiator, far surpassing any of the sexiest movie stars of the day or even the teen idols of their youth… It would have been disconcerting for any lady, but moreso for the four of them with their husbands only a few rooms away.
The men were still playing cards. Lydia’s husband had won another round.

“All right, let’s see what we can do here,” Lydia declared in an effort to get the women’s minds off of the smoldering and intimidating presence before them. Then, all four got to work.
He let out a sharp high-pitched breath through gritted teeth as the mercurochrome touched his wing.
Chefai? I thought you couldn’t feel anything!” Vera exclaimed.
“Well, he can feel that,” Clara reprimanded her.
“Then maybe he could taste the meatballs!” Rosalie mumbled under her breath.
It took the entire roll of gauze bandage, the whole roll of tape, and the whole tube of bacitracin to set the wing.
“It’s your human touch,” the angel explained. Your humanity is very powerful. Your touch brings feeling — whether it be pain or pleasure. It is one of many untapped powers of your humanity. You also possess more healing power than you know.
Though they had never thought of it this way before, they had certainly all bandaged enough scraped knees and wounds of their children over the years that they could probably be considered healers. Yes, as every mother and child knows, kissing it and making it better is a potent and powerful form of healing.
“You said,” Clara spoke, “that you needed to be there to announce the Birth of the Savior?”
“Oh,” Rosalie commented, “Are we having another one of those?”
“They do one every year now?” Vera chortled.
Gabbadost! The one was enough, I should think,” added Lydia.

“No!” the angel explained. “I keep forgetting that to become human, you had to drink from the River of Forgetfulness, so you do not completely grasp the true divine nature of things. I forgot that you think of time as linear. It’s not. It’s not a line where one thing happens after another. It’s, more accurately, that everything is happening in the same moment. Nothing comes before or after anything else. So your sister Italia’s early death, that happens now. And the births of your first children — all of them — happen now. And your gloriously happy and complicated wedding days — all happen now. And the days of your individual transitions which you have not yet lived into are also happening now! And the Birth of our Savior — happening now! Do you understand?”
The four women stared at him blankly.
Then, suddenly, Lydia was holding out a large kitchen knife and unrolling a spool of cord Mama used for tying bracciole. “Stugats! Tie him up,” she told her sisters.
Mahdund’! This is way more than I bargained for,” Rosalie complained.
“No!” Lydia commanded. “He knows the secrets of time and space. There is a lot we can learn from him.” Then, with a mercenary calm, she added, “Also, he will need to heal. That wing should not be moved for a while. It’s for his own good! Tie him up!”
Vera moaned, but she and Rosalie began to tie the angel like a bracciole — these are the string knots that every Italian woman knows how to make. Clara, the youngest, looked on in horror.
“Are you all right?” she whispered to him.
“Quite Fine!” he winked at her.
“Now, tell us your secrets!” Lydia commanded, wielding the knife. “What is the secret of life?”
“Well,” the angel answered in a voice of perfect sangfroid, “one secret I can share with you is that if you happen to see an angel, maybe don’t tie him up and point a knife at him.”
Statazitt!!” cried Lydia. “We work our lives away. We raise our children and take care of our aging mother and it’s a thankless lot! What do you know? How do we get rich?”
The angel smiled. “You have done that already! You are richer than you know. You are lucky enough to be in a human body! Do you have the slightest inkling of what a miracle that is? All the riches of this earthly world cannot buy you that, and you already have one! It breathes! It eats! It craps! It walks! It dances! It makes Love! It speaks…You have a voice! It sees! It laughs, and nobody even knows how! Of course, it’s not forever, and yes, angels are eternal. But there isn’t one of us who wouldn’t trade our eternity in spirit for one lifetime, however brief, in a physical form just such as you have!” Vera moaned. The angel went on. “You are the Creator’s Masterwork, and you act as if you are only here to make money! Phhhhp! You mentioned children! You mentioned a mother! You mentioned caretaking! Your meatballs…even one simple meal — to cook it and eat it and share it! These are the true blessings of why you took this form and what you came here to do! And those meatballs were SO FREAKIN’ DELICIOUS!”
Eh! I thought you couldn’t taste them!” Vera interrogated him, throwing her arms up in the air.
“I couldn’t — not the way you taste,” he retorted. “But I could taste what I was missing!”
“You have TASTE,” he continued! Do you know how filled with Miracles are your most ordinary days? You taste homemade marinara sauce! You smell the aroma of herbs and flowers! Fresh basilnego!” The women all hummed, nodding in agreement and satisfaction at that one. “You listen to Music — Frank Sinatra and The Beatles and Vivaldi and Puccini and Billie Holiday and Louie Prima and Keely Smith…”
“We don’t listen to Puccini!” Rosalie muttered.
“You see the sky and your Lover’s eyes!” he went on. “You touch another human being and you copulate and you create children! You feel the water splash against your skin when you go swimming in the ocean! Gentle snowflakes that kiss your brow as you walk outside in winter, and you can feel that! What do I have that you could possibly want? You have won! You have it all!”
“Lydia, basta! Put the knife down,” Clara demanded.
“Has anyone noticed the size of his gulgliones?” Rosalie mumbled under her breath, shaking her head. She had not been able to take her eyes off his genitalia. The other three women looked at her disapprovingly.
Numu fai shcumbari!” Vera declared.
Che cozz’?” she followed up. “Am I the only one? You’re all going to tell me that you’re not looking? You don’t see that!?”
In the flash of a moment — and there was a flash of blinding light in the room, as well — the angel stood with the knife in his hand pointed at Lydia who was suspended in the air up toward the ceiling tied like a bracciole.
Mannaggia ‘Meriga!”“Get her down!” “Let her Go!” “Non disgraziat!” her sisters cried.
“You see,” the angel explained quite calmly, “I have nothing you want, but you have everything I want! You already have the miracle. I want your human body!”
“He can have my body,” Rosalie gibed salaciously without moving her lips.
“Please let her go,” Clara and Vera implored. “Sedeti!” “She meant no harm.”
“Tying me up and pointing a knife at me would certainly seem to indicate otherwise,” the angel declared. “But we are very familiar with the queer divine dissatisfaction of the human condition. You always want more — more money, more power, more time, more beauty, more riches, more summer, more space… The Hole Of Want is the one thing the Creator didn’t really get right.”
“The Hole Of Want?” Clara asked.
There was a pause.
The three women and the angel slowly turned and looked at Rosalie, accusingly.
Che cozz’?” Rosalie asked feigning innocence. “I didn’t say anything!”
“He can hear your thoughts,” Vera countered.
“We all can!” Clara added.
The angel laughed delighting in Rosalie’s corporal sensibility and mischievous humour. He turned and kissed her on the hand in the continental covenance — the way a woman might ideally dream of being kissed, with an almost equal measure of seduction and respect, but more respect. And in that moment, Rosalie felt something new.
Then he went on. “Every human has a Hole Of Want deep within them — it is the unceasing desire for better. But whatever you throw down there doesn’t really satisfy you, because, well, it’s a hole! It just comes with the arms and the legs and the head and the heart and the brain… it is just a part of you.” As the angel listed those parts of being human, he got quite wistful. “What I wouldn’t give…”
“Please… please let her down,” Clara implored the angel.
Again, in a flash, Lydia was back standing on the ground with the others, the rope was in a pile on the floor next to her, and he tossed the knife through the bedroom doorway so that it navigated through the air, turning the sharp corners of several rooms, and back into the kitchen drawer where it belonged. He was standing on the windowsill, and smiled a somewhat devastatingly seductive smile. “Thank you for repairing my wing,” declared the seraph. His full wingspan was beyond magnificent. It almost looked like six or eight wings, rather sharp, dark and foreboding, but gentle and calming as well, and all moving in perfect synchronization, extending outward from what appeared to be a stunningly incomparable naked male form. He was indubitably a most magnificent creature.
Warda!” the women exclaimed to one another, in awe of his presence fully unfurled.
“I must to the shepherds,” he stated. “Christmas Eve. The Savior is Born! Noel!”
And he was off.
Once the hurricane force wind from the oscillation of his wings had subsided, the four women stood there in the bedroom with the window wide open, suddenly aware of the frigid crisp chill in the air and the snow swirling into the room.
Facciu Fridda! Close the Window!” Vera called out, suddenly breaking the spell.
The women weren’t exactly sure what had just happened, or if it really could have happened at all.
“The mercurochrome,” Clara pointed out to Lydia, who was picking the cord up off the floor. Vera was shutting the window lock, and Rosalie was lost in thought, as she took the pan and the napkin from the meatballs to bring it back into the kitchen. She was sure of what she had seen, and would never forget the uniquely arousing presence.

The women headed out from the bedroom, past the kitchen into the smoke-filled living room on the other side of the apartment to check on everyone else. The men were absorbed in playing cards, undisturbed. Had they heard nothing?
“How is that possible? How could they be sitting here playing cards through all of that!?” asked Vera, “Murudda!”
“Well, how is any of it possible at all?” Clara retorted. “If any of that really did happen.”
Afanabola! Whaddaya’ mean ‘if it really did happen!?’” countered Rosalie. “That just happened! We all saw it!”
“Then I suppose it is just as possible that it could happen without them even being aware from two rooms away! Gabbish?” Clara continued
“It’s for the best,” Lydia declared with a wave of her arm.

Mama stirred from her sleep as they entered the room, speaking in Italian, and letting them know that she had just had the most amazing dream. There was an angel on the fire escape.
The women looked at one another unsure what to make of this. Had they somehow been players in their mother’s dream or did all this really just happen on the physical plane just the way they experienced it? Could their mother see in her sixth sense all that had occurred? In truth, they knew very little about the highly evolved sixth sense of their enlightened mother.
It was getting later and time to get home to tend to all that still needed to be done for Christmas. But they looked at their mother with new eyes — this woman who was getting old now, and so tired that she could not stay awake after Christmas Eve dinner, who had the courage to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a boat all alone when she was only 14, who met a man on the way over who would become their father, who arrived in a new country where they didn’t even speak the language, who raised her five children on her own when he died far too young, who bore the loss of a child, who took in beading and crocheting so that she could support them, who seemed to never stop working to see that they went to school and got a proper education, who gave them everything they needed… This woman understood the secret of life — she knew its value and meaning! They had so much for which to be grateful. Their lives really were the greatest gift of all.
Buon Natale, Mama!” they declared.
And the five of them hugged so warmly.
Buon Natale, La Famiglia,” their Mama said.

Iamo!” called the women. Lydia’s husband put out his cigar, and the men folded their card game, cleared the coffee table, and got the coats from the bedroom.
Facciu Fridda!” “It’s cold in there!” “What’d you have the window open?” the men mumbled.

Lydia was driving home with her husband in a car which felt newly luxurious to her — she was appreciating every aspect of it — the feel of the upholstery and the smooth quiet ride. She felt very blessed as she thought about her abundant life. She felt grateful for all that she had. Tonight, she wanted what she had instead of insisting on having all that she wanted. And for the first time, perhaps ever, she felt not only rich, but satisfied. She was happy.

Rosalie got in the car with her husband and they made love immediately — right there in the car. He was surprised, as she took the lead, and they whispered to one another over and over, “Ti voglio ben’assai!” They conceived another child that night, this one born of so much love. Not that the others were not, but it had been a long time since she not only felt sexy, but allowed herself to feel loved.

Vera felt remarkably calm as she got in the car. “No need to rush,” she told her husband. He was quite taken aback. Usually she would drive the pressure of Christmas Eve and all of the workload that went with it. “You know, I am realizing that all in all, there isn’t really that much more to do,” she told him. “There’s a few more presents to wrap, we’ll get the tree up, put out the sfogliadell’ and milk for Santa… I’m actually looking forward to it!” Then she exclaimed, “Bella notte!” For the first time ever, she was able to enjoy every beautiful thing, for the fear had lifted — the fear of not being able to do it forever, and the fear that it might not be as good as she had hoped… She let go of all her fears and just savored the present moment. And, just as it is for most of us, once we have experienced that feeling, we choose to live our lives that way. And so she did for the rest of her days — not just getting through them, but loving every moment.

Walking to the car, Clara could feel the miracle of the cold against her skin in the winter and the gentle snowflakes kissing her brow. From the passenger seat, she looked through the windshield up at the night sky and through the gentle snowfall, she could see that the star-filled sky was populated with cherubim and seraphim.
As her husband drove home, and they gently held hands in the front seat, she remembered that the name Emmanuel means “God with Us,” and she could feel for the first time the true divine nature of her humanity. She recognized that she was no less divine than the angels; in fact, she was to be envied for the transitory nature of this human form. She had always been taught that as a body, she had a soul. But now she saw clearly that it was the other way around: she was a soul; she had a body. And yes, she was stardust — as connected to what she saw above her, as her body was to the stars that shown in the sky, beyond the limits of time and space.
As she continued to stare at the sky, drawn to one twinkling star in particular, she began to make out that that twinkling was in fact the winking of an eye by a magnificent starlit seraph with brilliant wings, looking down upon her and smiling. Even from so far away in both time and space, she knew him, and he knew her.

She felt so blessed to be in this corporeal body. Life — ma che bell’! No gift that might appear under the tree the next morning could compare with the gifts that were already hers — with the gift of this temporary ephemeral and magnificent mortal life — this most coveted and joyful adventure for any eternal being.
It was nice.
It was something very nice!
Assai!

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