Christmas Stories: The Christmas AngelDecember 16, 2011
I might be too cynical for Abbie Farwell Brown’s story about how you shouldn’t be cynical on Christmas, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Angelina Terry is an older woman who’s pretty much on board with the “Bah, humbug” view of Christmas. When the story starts, she’s busy ignoring her brother Tom’s request for a Christmas reconciliation (we never find out what they originally fought about) and making fun of the Christmas spirit. As if that weren’t enough, she decides to spend the evening burning toys, which probably rates just below kicking puppies on the Everybody Hates You Now scale. Then she decides that no, she’ll burn most of them, but she’ll keep aside her favorites to perform weird social experiments. She’ll put the toys out on the sidewalk one by one, and people will come along and show how selfish and un-Christmas spirit-y they are.
This is a story about learning not to underestimate the Christmas spirit, but it’s also a story about the evils of theorizing ahead of data.
On toy gets picked up by a couple of Jewish newsboys who immediately start fighting over it. A stuffed dog is kicked into the street by a fashionable young man. Miss Terry looks on, practically cackling to herself over their lack of Christmas spirit. She can’t quite bring herself to toss Miranda, her old doll, into the street, so she wraps her up in paper and leaves the package on her own front step. A girl, Mary, finds the package and concludes that it must belong to someone in the house, but when she feels it she can tell it’s a doll, so she takes it anyway. Miss Terry gleefully brands her a thief.
Then she gets a visit from the Christmas angel, who shows her what really happened after the people picked up the toys, Christmas Carol style. You’ve probably already noticed this, but you could tag “Christmas Carol style” onto pretty much everything that happens in this story and not be far off. Anyway, it turns out that the quarreling news boys were fighting over who would have the privilege of bringing their toy — a jack-in-the-box — to a sick friend. The guy who kicked the toy into the street risks his life to save the kid who goes after it from an oncoming car. And the girl who “stole” the doll decides to bring it back the next day.
Then Miss Terry’s brother returns and they make up, and when the girl comes back with the doll they decide to adopt her, with very little ceremony. They sort of have the Christmas angel’s blessing for that, but I found myself wondering how well the Christmas angel knew Tom, because he seemed a bit creepy on the subject of little girls.
That’s a nitpick, though. The Christmas Angel isn’t particularly special in any way, but it’s a perfectly satisfactory Christmas story, and it had its moments. I suspect that what it really needed was to be fleshed out more.