Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rescuing the Littlest Angel

I've been silent for a while. On July 31 I got laid off from the job I had held since February 2002. The blow came unexpectedly for myself and over 30 colleagues. We learned in a four-minute listen-only conference call that our employer no longer needed our communications skills and we'd hear from HR.

The end.

So I haven't been in the mood to blog here, about personal matters. But with the fall, soon Rosh Hashanah, I'll start early on new behavior, including this.

In the aftermath of the lay-off, two collegues and I rushed back to our New York office from Boston, where we were for an assignment. Our other colleagues had already completed the doleful packing of personal items. I found boxes waiting by my office. I knocked some together, flipping flaps to make a tight cardboard fit, then began dumping in books, CDs, Jdate profiles I had printed out, insurance papers and anything else I wanted to get shipped to my home in Connecticut.

After two hours, I was done. I took final photos, said good-bye to friends, took the elevator down 39 floors, walked down Park Avenue, got the train in Grand Central, and came home. I had packed everything, needing only to return on August 1 to turn in my laptop, keys, Diners Club card, and other professional flotsam.

I was wrong. I forgot something precious.

To understand what I left behind, you have to understand my life long before employment, before New York. I grew up in deep South Texas, a heavily Catholic region on the Rio Grande at the far edge of America. College took me far away, then after graduation my career in jouralism planted me in New York. I hardly ever went back.

I did return for high school reunions, which I always enjoyed at the 20th reunion in 1996 I got the award of a ceramic angel for being the most distant alum of Mission High School to return to the reunion. It would safeguard me on my long trip back home.

The littlest angel, as I call it, means a great deal to me. It speaks of an abiding affection among my classmates and me, a token of the place where I grew up, left, and at times returned.

On the day I returned, I took one last look at my office. The boxes were packed and taped, CDs stowed, everything ready for the last journey home.

And then my eye fell on the littlest angel, guarding my possessions from a bare shelf. Somehow, in my rush to pack, I forgot her. There she remained. I grabbed the ceramic guardian and gently placed her in my Lands' End bag for an escorted trip home under my direct care.

How strange -- the one item with the highest sentimental value to me was the very item I forgot. Had I not gotten laid off while I was in Boston, had I not had to return to the office to do paperwork chores, I might have totally overlooked the littlest angel and left her forlornly on the shelf.

But my last trip to Park Avenue connected me again with my ceramic guardian, and we'll watch over each other from now on.

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