My mother’s candles remind me there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas.
It’s like there is no perfect summer, no perfect wedding and no perfect person.
It rains at the beach, you trip on your way up the aisle (yeah, that happened) and even the humans you love the best are – perfectly – flawed.
Hard to argue that Christmas 2020 could be anticipated with ideas of perfection. With COVID rules in place forbidding ‘out of the bubble’ gatherings in private homes, restricting travel, cancelling parades and concerts and so many other traditions we’ve come to rely on to define the holidays, it could be regarded as downright grim.
So it’s not going to be perfect. But it’s still going to be Christmas.
Look back on your most vivid Christmas memories – the ones that make you laugh when you share them over a glass of eggnog, beside the fire.
The time the kitchen sink got plugged, and you had to wash the dinner dishes in a claw-foot tub.
The Christmas Eve a parishioner sitting next to you in church stormed out when he realized you were multi-tasking – kneeling, praying and breastfeeding all at the same time.
The year there were no potatoes.
The year the tree fell over and injured the cat.
The year when there were potatoes, but an overindulging guest passed out into a plate of them. Gravy was involved.
Yeah, it all happened and none of it would work in a Hallmark movie. Possibly it’s material for National Lampoon.
It’s life and it’s Christmas. And neither will ever be perfect.
So these candles, they’ve been present at every Christmas of my life, so they are at least 53 years old.
Mom, who strove for perfection in everything (I was…erm…something of a disappointment) must have ordered them from a catalogue – Avon probably – in the late 1950s or early ‘60s.
The first wicked candles were crafted by Egyptians, in about 3,000 BC.
However it’s only been recently that candles were adopted for purely decorative purposes.
Today, you can buy a scented votive at any gas station. But up until men walked on the moon most western households stocked candles only for practical reasons – whenever a squirrel got caught in the hydro wires.
Mom’s Christmas candles must have been special to her.
There are three, so probably bought as a boxed set. They are each the size of a diner salt shaker and represent a snowperson, Santa going down a chimney, and a tree.
They are not, however, perfect.
Someone lit them. Bet that was Dad.
Santa’s face collapsed, for one thing.
There would have been frantic snuffing, and likely a heck of a row.
Oddly out of character, Mom kept them.
They were never displayed in the front rooms, where they could offend a visitor.
Every holiday they were placed on a shelf above the kitchen sink, where she could look at them when she cooked and baked, cleaned up, wrote Christmas cards and wrapped presents.
Somehow those candles made it into the bottom of a box that travelled from Ontario to B.C. six years ago.
And I put them on the shelf above my kitchen sink.
I’m not comparing the stress of a disfigured wax Santa Claus or a disastrous holiday meal to the struggles so many are facing with this COVID Christmas.
It’s just a reminder that it’s Christmas nonetheless, with a hope that all will find a little joy, despite its imperfections.
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