Red Peppers, Sweaters, and the Death Angel

28 11 2007

Today while I was making my lunch I realized a red bell pepper that is perfectly ripe and unmarred is not only sweet, crisp, and tasty, it’s a work of art. With it’s bright-colored skin and jaunty green stem cocked to the side, it’s like a nutritious, delicious bit of Christmas.

“And that’s all I have to say about that.”

Okay, this would be sad if it weren’t so happy. As I neared the end of my workout this morning, I began pondering what I wanted to wear after my shower. Since we keep our house on the chilly side, I wanted something cozy. The weather has only recently turned cold in East Texas, so I’m just now pulling out the really warm items. I tried to picture the sweaters in my closet, but I could only think of a few, and they didn’t appeal. Which brings us to the sad-but-happy part. Imagine my delight when I looked in the back of my closet and saw not one but two old, comfy, favorite sweaters I’ve had for probably at least ten years. It was like getting a present. Again. For the tenth time. And still being surprised.

I’m wearing one of them. Happily.

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon decorating the house for Christmas. I usually load the CD player with Christmas music to create a festive atmosphere, but this time I chose a different line up: Eisley’s Room Noises, Eisley’s Combinations, Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans, Arvo Part’s Te Deum, and Damien Rice’s O. It was an amazingly effective decorating soundtrack, though I will admit I almost dissolved into tears at one point–hanging photo ornaments and the ones my kids made through the years while the heart-breaking strains of Te Deum swelled around me in glorious stereo.

We usually top our tree with a straw angel George’s sister, Judy, bought for us when she lived in Germany. This year, though, I chose a different topper. To explain why, I need to back up.

In 1993, when Luke was eight, he came home from school with an angel he’d made in art class. It was a simple design, crafted from muslin with a twig-wreath halo and a small red felt heart glued on its skirt. He proudly showed it to me, and I oohed and aahed appropriately.

Many of the readers of this journal don’t know much about Jacob before his brain injury in 1996. For our purposes today, let’s just say he was smart and witty, but could be a little ruthless with his younger siblings. He took one look at Luke’s artwork and said, “That’s the death angel.”

Luke burst into tears. “It is not the death angel!”

Jacob: “Yep. The death angel.”

Luke: “Mo-o-o-om! Jacob said my angel is the death angel.”

Me (trying not to laugh): “Jacob, it’s not the death angel. Look, it’s a sweet little angel. It even has a heart on it.”

Jacob (matter-of-factly): “It’s the death angel.”

When I decorated for Christmas that year, I made sure I gave Luke’s angel a prominent place. All throughout the holiday, Jacob kept calling it the death angel. And the next year, when we pulled out the decorations, Jacob said, “You’re not going to put that death angel out again, are you?”

Luke: “It’s not the death angel!”

Jacob (making it fly around the room): “OOooooOOO! I’m the death angel. I’m coming to get you!”

Luke: “Mo-o-o-om!”

Jacob only had one more Christmas after that to torment Luke before the water washed his ruthlessness away. But the death angel has remained a part of our Christmas every year. (And, yes, we all call it the death angel now.) Yesterday when I pulled it out of the box, I instantly knew the straw angel from Germany wouldn’t be making an appearance this year. For the first time in twenty-two years, Luke will not be able to come home for Christmas. So it seems only right that, in his honor, a simple muslin angel with a red felt heart should crown our Christmas tree. It may not be very fancy, but I’ll tell you this much. Anyone messes with my treasured memories, and you best be wrestling with the . . . um, with the . . .

Hmmm. Can’t think of a good analogy. Any suggestions?


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15 responses

29 11 2007
Anonymous

um yeah, wrestling with the death angel.

Weird that I read this post, as I had the strangest dreams last night. Why is it that the Damoffs keep invading my dreams? I dreamt that I was not married (must’ve been younger) and that Luke and I got married because I heard him sing on a CD. Weirdness galore!

your random friend mary

29 11 2007
Anonymous

I agree with you about red bell peppers. They’re almost too pretty to eat.

I haven’t gotten our tree up yet. Need to do that. I love all the memories the ornaments hold. The kids are just getting old enough to remember them now and talk about them as we decorate. Makes it fun.

Jen T.

29 11 2007
Anonymous

May your Christmas be peppery and angelic!
And I love those sweaters. My favorite sweatshirts are close to twenty years old. And I’m twenty-nine.
Heather G.

29 11 2007
Anonymous

I loved red bell peppers even before you wrote this, but now… well, sister!

I love stories about Christmas ornaments and the family “bonding” they bring about. Your sons remind me of my own childhood experiences decking the halls.
-Erin

29 11 2007
kathrynlena

the line about luke not being home for Christmas made me cry.
Maybe because I miss him so much (even though I’ve never had him home for Christmas.) Maybe because I remember the first Christmas my sister wasn’t home because she was serving Baby Jesus in China. (At this moment she is enjoying the company of the new baby she had yesterday. in New Zealand. where she will be for Christmas.)

it would be a very sad thing to have someone so close to your heart so far away for Christmas.
if, of course, it weren’t so happy.

30 11 2007
jeannedamoff

It’s your subconscious determination to earn points, Mary. You obviously realize how valuable they are, and even in your sleep you strive for them. I applaud you! It’s also worth noting that George is the only person who has earned more points while asleep than you. And he has an advantage in that he sleeps in the same bed with me, I’m a light sleeper, and he’s a sleep talker.

Now about that dream. I’m sure Luke will be honored by the fact that his singing won your heart, even if you did describe the performance and/or marriage as “weirdness galore.” 😉

30 11 2007
jeannedamoff

Enjoy decorating with your kids! It’s harder to get motivated once they’re grown and gone. For the past few years I’ve purposefully invited company to my house early in December as incentive. I really do love it after I get it all done.

30 11 2007
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Heather. Peppery comes easy for me. Angelic, not so much.

Isn’t it a little difficult to stay cozy in those pink Barbie sweatshirts with sleeves that only reach your elbows?

30 11 2007
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Erin. It’s funny how some things that were irritating at the time wind up in the favorite memory file. At least for me they do. But I’ve always been a bit twisted.

As fun and creative as you are, I imagine your kids are developing wonderful traditions and storing up amazing memories.

30 11 2007
jeannedamoff

Now you made me cry. In a happy way.

Congratulations to your sister and your whole family! What a delightful gift to all of you this Christmas.

2 12 2007
Anonymous

I sat down to read this after a long afternoon decorating the house with my girls, accompanied by Christmas CDs and the sounds of the dog growling at the Christmas tree. Great to read your decorating story! Love the sweaters, too. I can relate. I’m relatively new to this seasons-changing thing (Southern California girl) but I LOVE it when the time comes to sift thru my stuff and find a comfy sweater or sweatshirt to wear as I sit at my desk all day and try to avoid freezing. Glad you’re happy in your sweater!
–Rachelle G.

3 12 2007
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Rachelle. If you’re still figuring out ways to beat the cold, here’s another tip. In addition to my old sweaters I wear a pair of ratty knit gloves with half the fingers cut off. They look pathetic, but my hands stay nice and toasty while typing or playing the piano.

I hope your dog makes amends with the Christmas tree. 🙂

8 12 2007
ldamoff

wow… i’m flattered and freaked out.

love,
luke

8 12 2007
ldamoff

Aww thanks mom, but you know i think we should celebrate Christmas in September, since that is more likely when the nativity actually occurred. I applaud your choice of music, i see my CD collection is going to good use while i’m here in Africa pining away for my music (especially Sufjan).

Happy Christmas, sorry i’m missing out on the fun.

love,
luke

8 12 2007
jeannedamoff

Christmas in September would work for me. I could consider all the festivities as birthday parties. 🙂

Your CD collection is definitely not gathering dust. Right now the entire Sufjan Christmas line up is in the player. At the moment “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” is on. (Not to make you any more piney or anything.)

Happy Christmas to you, too! We LOVE you. Madly.

xo, Mz

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