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The angel's overcoat

My grandfather picked me up and cradled me in his arms, letting my head rest on the bushy gray pillow of his beard. I had stayed up late to listen to him and the other men in the study house of the synagogue tell stories about a wonderful time that everyone hoped for, when there would be peace on earth, and now I was so sleepy I could hardly keep my eyes open.

He carried me outside into the night, wrapping part of his overcoat around me for a blanket, and headed down the long, moonlit hill toward his house. It was like being curled up in a bed that was slowly bobbing along high above the world.

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I closed my eyes and thought of the stories, full of sweetness and ache and I'd heard. I loved the one about how God took the moon away from the world for one day, and the world wept because until then it didn't know what need it had of the moon -- that was how all the peoples of the world weep, and be lost, if the hope of peace were taken away for even one day.

I loved best of all my grandfather's own story about the angel God would send with the gift of peace. So big was this angels that in his hand the sun would look like a little candle, and yet so small he could light his way into the darkest heart. So big was the gift that even a desert turned into a thousand gardens smiling in the rain would be as nothing beside it, and yet so small that children could hold it in their eyes.

I could hear my grandfather, as though from far off, singing me a lullaby. It was a song about what the world would be when peace came. What good things to eat and drink for everyone, what wisdom from the old, what music fromthe young, what stars in the sky, like eyes that shine with tears when the joy of the heart overflows.

The button on his coat that had been rubbing gently against my forehead, like a little secret wanting inside, got quieter and quieter and finally grew still. I fell asleep.

There, in his arms, I dreamed of the angel. He looked like my grandfather, but he glowed. He was sitting on a cloud, smiling, because God has just told him that it was time to put on his overcoat, and he started buttoning the buttons. I became very sad. I looked at all the buttons he had to button, and it seemed to me there were more of them than stars in the sky. I was sure it would take him forever to finish.

When I awoke, my grandfather was tucking me in bed. "Grandfather," I said, all muddled with sleep and innocence but wanting to understand, "why does the angel have to wear an overcoat when he comes? Can't he just come in his pajamas?"

He looked thoughtful and fingered a button on his own overcoat, as if consulting it in a matter of the greates seriousness. "You don't want the angel should bundle up, Davie? You just want he should hurry and come?"

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I nodded.

He sat down on the edge of the bed. "It's hard to wait, I know. But there's a reason for everything -- even why the angel shouldn't come in his pajamas. Sometimes we understand, sometimes we don't; it's not important. Only to remember: Blessed is the one who comes. Blessed is the one who waits. Be strong."

My grandfather smiled softly, giving the ancient, wis tful shrug of the wise, and kissed me good night.

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