Joanne Costantino: A Grammy, An Angel and “Todzilla”

Advent: The Coming of Something Momentous.

Advent for me is always what the definition is: waiting, lying in wait for something to happen. Growing up in the Catholic Church, my memories of Advent are of the dark purple vestments the priests wore for the four weeks at Sunday Mass, the Advent wreath, the hymns of waiting for the Savior’s birth (“Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel”), and the bare altar that suddenly exploded on Christmas eve into a stage of brilliantly lit Christmas trees lining the altar and a spectacular manger scene complete with the Holy Family, a crèche with lots of hay spread around, shepherds and angels in diaphanous white gowns with wings that looked like Michelangelo himself had created them. Fast forward into my younger Mommy years, and immediately after Thanksgiving my Advent was coupled with that feeling of “lying in wait for something to happen”– and always with the angst of did I get it all done?! right up to midnight of Christmas Eve.

In my Grandparent years I still feel the “lying in wait for something to happen.” But the angst is replaced with anticipation for how I’m going to knock the socks off my grandkids with an experience they might not have had the opportunity to enjoy with their overbooked and exhausted parents. Sometimes it’s an expensive event, but the memories are priceless. This year it cost me less than $25 for my granddaughter Meghan.

Meghan is tiny in a family of non-tiny people. She is also “affectionately” nicknamed “Todzilla,” and lately, “Toddy.” She actually is proud of the moniker. Her small size is a shrewd disguise for her huge temper, the volume of her articulate voice and not the least of all her razor sharp intelligence. Her brain never shuts down. I find it amusing more often than not, but she gives her parents an emotional workout.

The application for which role a child would like in the Nativity play came home last week. My daughter Kate asked Meghan if she’d like to be something different this year, maybe a shepherd or a reader. Meghan’s response was without hesitation, direct and terse: “No! You said I could be an angel.” Okay, we won’t dwell on the double entendre in the statement, but this is life with our Todzilla.

Meghan’s mom was in that very place of anxiety I remember so well. When she called, I could hear in her voice the restrained panic: “Toddy wants to be an angel in the Nativity play, we don’t have a costume. The play is in two weeks.” We dug out last year’s costume. Because she is so petite the angel dress still fit her. But then we found the homemade wings and the halo. Toddy looked at them and stated, “I thought we threw those away.”

We had bought fairy wings at the Dollar Store and covered them with foil, because all we could find was pink ones and had no time to do anything else. Meghan had declared she could not have pink wings in a white gown, so we improvised. The foil did the job, but apparently other parents’ angels were adorned with real feathered angel wings trimmed in maribou. There was nothing homemade about their wings. Meghan looked angelic throughout the Nativity play, but she continued throughout that evening about how she was the only one with “silver wings.” That was last year.

This year, Meghan’s had no change of heart about the homemade wings and halo. Kate tried to convince her that her wings were special because they were different. But Toddy wasn’t having any of that nonsense and walked away. With two weeks until the play, I was confident I could find a set of angel wings that would be suitable to Meghan’s standards.

Naturally, I consulted the internet. The initial search resulted in a lot of “sold out” or “out of stock” findings. It was beginning to look bleak. The feeling of anticipation and confidence that these wings were going to be a slam dunk was ebbing. After taking a break from the search, I went back online, determined we were going to have feathered wings for Todzilla in time for the play. Thanks be to God for persistence, patience and feathered angel wings, trimmed in white maribou, $8.50. Expedited shipping was more than the cost of the wings, but it did not matter.

They were delivered as promised and when I displayed them for her, Meghan exclaimed “Oh my God! They are HUGE!” Although the wings are almost the same size as Meghan, they are beautiful and look like real feathered angel wings.

The halo never fit well on her head, so we’re going to forgo the halo and go with a trimmed white headband. Toddy is just fine with not wearing a halo. As she so astutely observed, “it’s always slipping off my head.” No kidding.




Joanne Costantino is a Philly girl living in the wild suburb of Washington Township, NJ, where she still pines for city life. She graduated from College in 2008, two weeks shy of the birth of her 4th grandchild. The “accidental matriarch” of a life she didn’t sign up for, Joanne will never run out of writing material with her family of daughters, nieces and their youngsters, all living close enough for weekly Sunday dinners. Joanne’s short stories “The Philly Girl in Jersey” and “Leaving the Leaves” appeared in Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey.



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