They’re sitting there, silent and dark, in the boxes and crates that I put them in last January. I’m sitting here, quiet and tired, wondering if this is the year that they stay where they are; inanimate objects gathering dust in a place that nobody goes. I see in my mind the things I could do with those things, bushes illuminated, doorways made festive, windows lit with a soft glow from a candle bought in a different time, in a different home.
Back when Christmastime was truly magical it was up to me to make sure all of the candles were lit in all of our windows. The bulbs were orange then, the electric candles ivory with plastic wax dripping down the sides. They were placed between the real windows and the storm windows, the heat they produced enough to melt the frost and sometimes ice that lived between the glass, creating a halo of orange light surrounded by white.
I couldn’t wait for sunset most days, and as the last traces of light receded to darkness I would begin my work, first downstairs, plugging the ends of the electric cords into the outlets that turned them on. There were five windows on the ground floor of the colonial, and it didn’t take long for me to plug all five in. The effect was okay, but lost with the everyday lighting and the racket from my brother and sisters, and the noise in the kitchen from my mother’s meal preparations.
It was upstairs where the true Christmas Spirit resided, in the bedrooms. Only during Christmastime was I allowed access into my parents room without an invite, and my sister’s room without being chased into it. It was quiet up there, nobody but me, and I took my time, basking in the orange glow in each room before moving on to the next. I saved me and my brother’s room for last, and after the final candle was lit would lie in my bunk bed and let the serenity I created fill me with happiness. I wouldn’t spend long up there, didn’t want to miss what was happening downstairs, some treat to gobble or game to play, but for perhaps five minutes I would lie there feeling connected to something far bigger than myself, or anything I could imagine.
I close my eyes and feel it, and before long I’m off the chair, coat on, hat and gloves in the pocket and out the door, into the garage and up the ladder. The boxes are right where I left them last year. A few candles wouldn’t hurt, I think, and before long every last snowman, elf, Santa and wreath is on the garage floor, waiting for me to create something magnificent.