The holidays are such reflective times. Many of us feel vulnerable. Mixed with all the jolliness, emotions are raw. Regrets may surface. Old wounds may be opened. Families are either missed or have stayed a tad too long. If we’re lucky, gratitude springs forward and small miracles reveal themselves.
Under our Christmas tree this year was one gift tagged to me that I fully expected from my mother. The small box of six orange votive candles are worthless to anyone else. The very box and celophane window are yellowed and worn from age. Oh, but how precious these candles are.
When I was a young child, my father received a case of candles from a client. A slew of six-pack boxes of candles was marked with the company name, Miracle Candle Company. I don’t remember what happened to any of that bulk of candles. With the exception of one small box.
Some time around my marriage in 1988, my mother wrapped one of those Miracle Candle Company boxes and gave it to me for Christmas. No doubt, it was a practical gift from mother to daughter-one of those stocking stuffer items like extra toothbrushes and hand lotion. I put the box in my closet, right next to my meager box of first Christmas decorations.
The next Christmas, I stumbled upon that crisp cardboard box with the crystal clear celophane window revealing the orange candles inside. I don’t remember what possessed me, but I wrapped it and slapped a name tag on it for my mother. Call it re-gifting with a giggle. Or call me an indian giver (no p.c. backlash please- you know what I mean.)
She laughed. I laughed. She stored the candles away. And the very next year, I unwrapped the very same box. Thus began a crazy, inexplicable, nonsensicle, wonderful tradition. It was as if we held a hand over our hearts and issued an unspoken oath, “She who unwraps the box will dutifully protect the little miracles and return them to sender in 365 days (leap year not withstanding.)” At some point in the early years, I added a label to the box with the words, “Tag, you’re it!”
It has been 21 years since the candles began the annual Christmas pilgrimage back and forth between us. Our lives, like our world, have changed in that time. The years have blessed and plagued our mother-daughter relationship with a kaleidoscope of tension, hopefulness, regret, fondness, anger, admiration and, behind it all, love. Through it all, even if we weren’t speaking at the time, we both knew that Christmas day would reveal those candles again. By now, I believe the name on the box refers to more than the company name. Miracle seems to be the main ingredient.
The yellowed, brittle box of dated orange candles now rests in its designated spot on my closet shelf. Next year, my mother will be expecting it.
P.S.) My nineteen-year old son shared the story of the candle tradition with his girlfriend this year. He thinks it’s “cool.” You know what that means? Someday, he will open a Christmas present and find a very battered box of Miracle Candles with a label that says, “Tag, you’re it!”