The Littlest Angel Box

Author: Mark W. Swarthout
Published on: January 6, 2003

Perhaps someplace in your house you have a Littlest Angel Box. You aren’t familiar with the Littlest Angel? It’s one of those heartwarming stories that was made into a television movie in 1969 with James Coco, Connie Stevens and Tony Randall. It is a wonderful Christmas story about a small shepherd who has his treasures in a small box. Hopefully, someone in your family has kept a few of these wonderful collections through the years. This is the way to really bring a story to life!

My ‘baby’ sister is a story teller. Not just your run-of-the-mill story teller, but one who participates in workshops and tells stories as part of her job at the public library. (She was also on the 2004 Newbery Committee!) And as part of that world, she writes stories. She is currently working on one about our Uncle Jack. None of us kids ever met Uncle Jack, he died of leukemia when he was 17, years before our parents ever knew each other. As part of the process, she asked each of us what we knew about him. When she got to me I mentioned having seen a ‘Littlest Angel Box’ about ten years ago in one of the cartons of things passed down from my grandmother. My parents were surprised, sure that all of the things dealing with Jack had been destroyed many years ago.

I went upstairs to a closet filled top to bottom with boxes. I looked at the walls of cardboard and shook my head, doubtful that anything would be found in the few days I was going to be there. Shifting a few pieces of furniture around, a likely looking box was sitting on a shelf and I slid it out and opened it. Would you believe?

On top of the contents sat a small, gray, cardboard box neatly tied with string and plainly marked “Littlest Angel Box.” The contents were as I remembered them. Several decoder wheels and a Dick Tracy badge, name tags, and a number of bits and pieces of small things. The items triggered memories for my father and meshed in with the other items found in that box and the two others stacked near it on the shelves in that closet. Filed in the boxes were many picture albums, from the time my grandmother was a young girl through her death about 15 years ago.

Within these boxes were essays by my father and his brother, grade cards, announcements for births, weddings and funerals. Fragile newspaper clippings even announced the wedding of my Great Grandparents! Commencement programs, memorial dedications and other items where included. And in odd places throughout were the most treasured items, pictures of ancestors with spidery writing marking them as “Grandma Murphy” and ‘Mom.’ I hadn’t seen pictures of many of these people before. Needless to say, even I was surprised by the contents. For I had looked through them a decade ago, but had looked only at the information from the point of filling in the blanks of the family tree, not from bringing the people to life.

I hope you find some of these boxes. The stories that they will bring out of your family will be wonderful and go a long way toward putting flesh on their bones.

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