Hattie Rose Has Earned Her Wings


Preparing for our first Christmas together 30 years ago, I asked my husband what kind of topper he’d like for our tree. His response told me more than he realized, or I understood at the time: “I don’t know. She’s just always been our angel.”


The “she” was a sad, rather tired-looking topper. Her skirt hoop, made of unpliable wire, was covered by a thin, slightly stained piece of sheer net. Her hair needed attention, and the rusted pipe cleaner passing as a halo wasn’t helping with her coiffure.


Since she would be our guardian angel, the first thing she needed was a name. We christened her Hattie Rose. I wanted her to look angelic, so I devised a plan. Hattie Rose would get a complete makeover.


Rather than make a dress pattern and start fresh, I let her grow into a new gown. Every year, I’ve added one item to her ensemble. While there have been 30 embellishments added to her gown, almost all have special meaning. The first alteration was a skirt over the thin net, covering the metal frame—modesty first. This was fashioned with a long strip of ivory satin ribbon from a special gift I’d received.

On Hattie Rose’s skirt are several cherished things: lace from my late godfather’s christening gown and pearls that belonged to his mother, and lace from one of our granddaughter’s baby dresses. A pretty, vintage pearl earring I’d saved after losing its mate found new purpose as a brooch. Seashells represent many happy family trips to Galveston Island.


There are items included simply because I liked them, like the sweet daisy chain cuffs on her gown. She holds a trumpet and nosegay, originally part of a gift decoration. Under her skirt are sewn the tags of our adored Labrador, Homer, along with an Escada fashion label.


Hattie Rose has grown bigger wings, and this year, her rusty pipe cleaner halo was finally replaced by a sparky headpiece created from a pair of my Art Deco earrings.

From her perch, Hattie Rose has watched new puppies join the family and, I’m sure, cringed at the potential roughhousing near the tree with its almost 1,400 ornaments. She welcomed our daughter-in-law and then later our two grandchildren. Our angel has presided over Christmas dinners, annual parties, gift exchanges, Santa’s filling of stockings, and watched the same holiday movies with us year after year. She’s shared the sadness in our loss of those no longer around the table and has watched us grow older.


As the tree is once again dismantled, ornaments stored, and Christmas music turned off, Hattie Rose is gently returned to her special box for safekeeping, where she’ll wait for us until next December. Another year has passed, and she’s taken it all in her stride.