December 23, 2012
I'd been called many things in my 7 year-old life. Love names, to be sure, though my family defined the term differently than I did. I was "Peachy-poops" to my grandmother (sigh), "Punkin" to my father (better), "Pi**y-Patty" to a favorite aunt whom I'd apparently wet on frequently as an infant (double sigh), and "Pots" to my brother, which always made me think of dirty dishes.
It was at the second-grade school Christmas party, that my teacher, Ed Gaubatz, showed me another thought. Mr. G — the best introduction to school that any child could have ever wished for — had hand-painted Christmas ornaments for the entire class.
Mine was a ceramic angel. He told me he had painted her to look like me, and he had. Her hair was short and dark just like mine; her hands held a tiny blue song book exactly the color of the hymnals we used in church every Sunday; and her mouth was formed in a perfect red "o," as if she — like me — was always singing.
Upon looking closer, I could even see my own name "Patty" clearly painted in shining golden letters on the hem of her floor-length ruby choir robe. She was fragile and beautiful, a perfect little doll, only she was an angel — just like me.
That little angel has traveled with me everywhere I've gone, every Christmas, ever since. Decades later, every year I still search carefully through the ornaments until I find her, and I hang her high on the tree in our secret spot, well protected from playful paws and hands.
She's hung on trees in Indiana, North Carolina, Colorado, Hawaii and now, Maryland, reminding me every year that once there was a special teacher who looked at a class of little girls and saw angels, and inside me, there is still a little girl who believed in that moment that her teacher was absolutely right.
¿ By Patty McCullum, Hagerstown