A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker



It's a hard thing when angels fall. And our angel had fallen-hard.

Thankfully, she didn't have far to fall-just a few feet from the top of the Christmas tree to the soft carpet underneath. And since she was made of cloth and thread, there wasn't much chance that anything could be damaged or broken.

Still, our tree looked funny without the traditional angel perched in its traditional spot. A Christmas tree without a star or angel on top is like a jack-o-lantern without a light inside, or an Easter basket without plastic grass. It's cool and everything, but it isn't . . . you know . . . complete.

And believe me, our tree doesn't need any help looking funny or incomplete. It's a fine fake tree; it has served us well for about 10 years. But it's starting to fall apart and droop a little, so the shape isn't quite right. The needles-once proud and straight-are now sort of curly, and there are a few black holes where branches should be.

Oh, and one other thing: for some reason this year our tree has started to lean. I've tried stuffing the base, wrapping the bottom and bending the trunk in the middle. But try as I might, I can't get the darn thing to stand up straight. So we're just letting it lean precariously, hoping that it somehow manages to maintain its delicate balance.

Which is why the falling of an angel from off the top of the tree created a mini-Christmas crisis in our house. Not simply by falling- the angel isn't big or heavy enough to throw off the tree's balance all by itself. But putting the angel back on top without brushing against the tree and perhaps collapsing it like a house of Christmas cards- that posed a problem. The tree is just tall and wide enough that my short-legged wife, Anita, can't reach the top without pushing against it, even when standing on a chair. Our daughter, Andrea, a high school senior, is probably tall enough to make the stretch, but one has to get on her social calendar weeks in advance, and we hoped to get the angel back in its place sometime before the turn of the century.

Clearly, the job was mine, and I was pretty sure I was up to it. I'm usually the one who places the angel on top anyway, although I've never before had to worry about not touching the tree. I circled carefully, angel in hand, looking for the right place to make the attempt. A couple of cautious swipes at the top told me that my biggest challenge would be balance. I could stretch out enough to reach the top, but it required a position that left me within inches of the tree and tilting toward it. If I reached too far-as I inevitably would-I would likely stumble right into the tree and turn three hour's-worth of holiday decorating into a pile of red and green rubble.

Anita, as usual, came up with the answer. She stood behind me, grabbed onto my belt and pulled back while I leaned toward the tree and stretched . . . out . . . carefully . . . just . . . enough to restore the angel to its proper position of prominence. There's no question I would have had a closer encounter with the tree-much, much closer-had I been left to my own devices. Working together, we could accomplish what neither of us would have been able to do alone.

It's almost always that way, isn't it? For lifting, pulling, holding, adjusting, building, and occasionally, holding back, nothing works like teamwork. While it's sometimes amazing to see what individual humans can accomplish by themselves, more often it is cooperative effort that enriches companies, empowers athletes, elevates families and invigorates marriages.

Oh, and once in a while, it comes in handy for rescuing fallen angels, too.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and