Just a few minutes before my sister’s wedding in 2017, I called her over for a private moment where I hugged her, thanked her for being my best friend and wished her the best in married life.
Wait. Almost none of that happened.
Instead my parents and I made sure she saw the special decorations in the home where she was about to be married in New Orleans.
The Elms had a beautiful tree with all matter of ornaments specially chosen and I’m certain carefully placed by a highly paid decorator. There also were two angels designed by children.
Ah, the Clemons kid angels.
When I was in preschool, I made a beautiful tree-topper. Really, it’s fantastic. It’s created from a paper plate, and not the good thick Chinet kind but the two-packs-for-99 cents kind with a scalloped edge.
It’s cut in such a way to preserve for all posterity that my motor skills were terrible at age 4, and honestly haven’t improved much.
There’s also glitter — oh, so much glitter on the halo, along the wings, and in a pattern at the bottom for a reason I couldn’t tell you now, all held into place by Elmer’s School Glue. And although the past 30-something years have faded them, you can still make out the eyes, smile and random lines I drew in crayon.
Just, really, it’s beautiful.
Everything was going great until my parents decided one child just wasn’t enough. No, they had to go messing with perfection and give me a sister.
And then they had to go and put her in the same preschool, which also made angel decorations.
Y’all see where I’m going here?
The problem comes in that, in the intervening five years, the faculty changed and as a result, so did the way they made the angels.
Kiddie Kollege got crafty in those five years. You’d think Pinterest was already a thing.
Katie’s angel is made of multiple pieces, including a cloth body. The golden halo is yet another piece.
What are we doing here? Where’s the paper plate? How come she got a teacher’s help and I was on my own?
And most importantly, why does Katie think this belongs on the top of the tree?
I don’t remember if this was always a sibling rivalry throughout childhood, but it’s definitely become one as the years have progressed. At some point my mother came up with a brilliant solution, as mothers do.
Since I was born in an odd-numbered year, my angel tops the tree in an odd-numbered year.
Katie, having been born in an even-numbered year, gets the honor the rest of the time.
Imagine my delight when Katie decided for a wedding in the Christmas season in an odd-numbered year. Even better, on March 20, 2019, James Sheppard Milner made his debut and my sister became a mom.
Another milestone for Katie in an odd-numbered year. It’s like the fates need Katie to know my angel is more special.
The tales of these angels have raged, becoming legend in my family and maybe even more so among our friends.
Lydia Roney Wright, a childhood friend who later lived down the road from me in Walton County, has an embroidery business. Katie placed an order and opened it up to find a surprise: A T-shirt with a young blond-headed boy in flappy-butt pajamas with his initials, putting his own star atop the tree.
“My turn…” it says.
“Hope Uncle Dave doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight,” Lydia wrote.
I mean, now that I’ve been shamed into it, I guess not.
So I did what any proud uncle would do: I ordered my nephew his own monogrammed flappy-butt pajamas. And he wore them as his proud grandfather helped him put Uncle Dave’s angel on top of the tree this month.
But something tells me it’s one of the last times. The angel, brittle as it is, will find a new spot further down the tree as we make way for a decoration from the children in a new generation.
My hope is that James has his own siblings to fight about the decorations with, and that they’ll have as much fun with it as Katie and I have.
The angel rivalry continues, from my parents’ home to a mansion in the Garden District and now that Mom and Dad are grandparents in Arkansas.
It’s the best quirk of Clemons Christmas, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
David Clemons is the editor and publisher of The Walton Tribune, and a former editor and publisher of The Covington News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @scoopclemons.