A Box of Angels

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2014-01-07 — The last thing we did Sunday before the temperature began its descent from the freezing single digits to frigid air, sub-zero territory was to pack up our Christmas decorations. When I say “we,” I don’t include myself. I sat in an easy chair doing a crossword puzzle while my wife Kit and her sister Mary did all the work.

You know how these things go. As each ornament was wrapped and put away for next year, the ladies reminisced about where each ornament came from, who gave it to us, where we were in our lives at the time. Each time one of them found an ornament she liked, she would say to me, “don’t you love this one?” And I would nod yes without so much as looking at the ornament. I was deep into the crossword puzzle.

As the work was winding to a close, however, Mary made a remark that drew my attention: “Kit, I put all the angels into this box.”

I asked how in the world she managed to find enough angels to fill a box, then I noticed some large angels on the table that hadn’t been included. “I guess we’ll have to start another angel box,” she said. Our ornament boxes are pretty big!

I don’t believe in angels, which was why I was surprised we had so many—at least not the celestial kind. It may be a wonderful life, but none of those bells you hear signify anything about angels getting their wings. As far as I am concerned, a box of angels is a coffin.

Non-celestial angels are a different matter.

Monday was the deep freeze day. At 15 below, my son Nat headed out to his job at the restaurant. His car started right up, but stalled out when I tried to get it out onto the street. It was hard to restart, which should have been a tip-off, but it finally ran smoothly and he headed off to work. Half-hour later I get a call: at Lake Shore Drive and North Avenue the temperature gauge began to rise fast and the car began to sputter. As he approached the Michigan Avenue exit, he stalled and coasted of the Drive and stopped. I grabbed the other car to drive down to him and we both began making calls to get a tow.

No luck: not from the insurance company, not from our mechanic, not from the police. All the trucks were out. None were available. So we sat there. For two hours.

Then two boxes of angels arrived without being called.

The first box was a police car. They were just exiting the Drive themselves and saw our predicament. By this time Kit had also arrived in her car and had taken Nat to work. Then she returned and sat with me. Three EightOh9 cars in a row blocking the right lane of the Michigan Avenue exit with blinkers on: Nat’s car, my car, and Kit’s car. The police who stopped told us it wasn’t safe. They said they would call a city tow truck to move the car to a side street. And they told Kit and me they would stay with the car while we moved to a safer spot where we could watch Nat’s car—but not get hit by anyone exiting Lake Shore Drive.

The second box was a tow truck. Before I was even able to get my car to the safe spot recommended by the police, a tow truck appeared: not the tow truck called by our mechanic, but rather a roving truck who spotted our distress while exiting the Drive itself.

With the help of the police, I negotiated a deal to have the tow truck take our car to our mechanic’s shop in Evanston. It wasn’t free, mind you. They weren’t celestial angels. I haggled with them over the price and agreed to pay a price that was high but not ridiculous. Within minutes, we were on the way to our mechanic’s shop where he remained open late to receive the car. (Preliminary diagnosis: a burst hose—not too bad, but it remains to be seen.)

These were unlikely angels. They didn’t save us for an eternity. But they saved us for a day.

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