The Naked Angels
by Carol Martino
Recently, when I read that angels symbolize affection, harmony, and protection, Mom's naked angels came to mind. These celestial beings were a wedding gift from a friend. They were crafted from plaster of Paris, and Mom cherished them. She referred to the nakedness as "art" and proudly displayed them above the dining room buffet. As a kid, those angels embarrassed me to no end. One day when ironing, I was tempted to hang a pillowcase over their nakedness. But I didn't.
With wings folded down, the angels were not designed to go anywhere. Yet, I wished they would fly off somewhere, anywhere, as long as it was out of our home. But throughout most of my childhood, the naked angels continued to hang above the buffet - a place where we put our books after school. Actually, it was a dumping ground for everything that wasn't in its proper place - until Friday. Mom always cleaned the house on Friday. The buffet was cleared off and dusted to a shine; she expected it to stay that way, at least for a few days. By Monday afternoon, our books and school papers were piled on the buffet again, and those naked angels were still there, striking a confident pose as if they owned the space above the buffet.
Once, my best friend asked, "Why do you have naked ladies hanging on the wall?" I explained that they were "angels." She replied, "But why are they naked?" I told her it was "art." After that, I didn't bring my friends into the dining room.
My parents moved to a smaller home shortly after I got married. I don't remember seeing the naked angels again until years later when Mom gave them to me. Why she gave them to me is as much a mystery as why she was attached to them. Maybe I asked for them, but why? Or, maybe she knew I would keep them since it's near impossible for me to get rid of anything with sentimental value. Even if it's not my sentiment. They were wrapped in old newspapers, and for years they stayed tucked away in a box.
One day, after Dan and I moved to a new home, I ran across the naked angels while unpacking. Over the years the plastered edges had chipped, along with bits of black paint, but they were still naked. I decided to hang the angels in the lounge; I no longer felt the need to cover up their sensual curves. After a few months, I packed them away again. I can't say why I hung them up, or why I took them down. Everything about these evocative angels is a mystery to me.
Eventually, I gave the plaques to my sister Chris who refurbished them with blue paint and hung them in her bathroom. When she downsized, they ended up at her garage sale. I remember the quivering urge to bring them home again. Mom's memory and the mysterious sentiment behind those angels moved through me all morning and into the afternoon. I didn't bring them home; no one else did either.
Mom's naked angels ended up in the dumpster with other timeworn items. I can't help but wonder if someday, someone will uncover them in the rubbish and listen to their story - a story I never knew. Perhaps they'll connect to the affection, harmony, and protection that women possess, with or without wings.
One thing is for sure, my kids and grandkids won't discover them someday and wonder why I kept two plastered, naked angels tucked away in the attic.