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Day Twenty-Six: Oil Lamps


oil lamps

On the shelves in the first house we owned, Dave and I kept a collection of things; souvenirs of our travel, gifts from friends and family, odd knick-knacks we’d found or acquired in one way or another.

We kept the collection on the blonde wood shelves in the diningroom of our craftsman bungalow on the north side of Chicago. Before that they’d lived on the top of the crates in our loft which served as dividers in the absence of walls. The top of the crates in the loft met visitors a little above their gaze but in our new house they were eye level, littering the shelf in some random order, some strange conglomeration of items, conversation pieces.

The oil lamp was dull brown pottery, rough sides and rounded handle it looked ancient, like something from an archeological dig. Dave filled it with oil the moment we got it and we lit that lamp to test it out, marveling over it for a few moments then blowing it out, setting it back in the collection to wait for the next curious observer to give it the time of day.

It sat buried on that crate in the loft, a little in the back behind other more noisy or more gaudy items, things that lifted themselves out of the crowd of the collection to draw the attention of visitors. I packed it carefully for the move that winter. I packed a number of things in the loft that week between Christmas and New Years as we closed on the house and began the repairs, scraping and painting, furnace and dishwasher.

Then it sat buried in a box on the floor of the new house for a month or so but when the thaw came in Chicago that year it was unwrapped and it took its place on the shelf in the diningroom at eye level. Most people who came to visit saw it and commented. Some picked it up, carefully, realizing probably a little too late that it was filled with oil still and the wood under the shelf developed a darkened sheen where the lamp resided. Once, during one of the kids’ birthday parties, Dave’s dad picked it up and turned it over completely, dumping the contents on the floor without realizing it at all. He was already deep in his battle with Alzheimer’s and I watched as he placed the lamp back on the shelf, still not knowing about the small puddle of oil at his feet. He patted the lamp as I quietly gathered paper towels to sop up the oil. “This is nice” he said when I approached. I was not sure if he meant the lamp or the party but it didn’t matter. “It is,” I said, putting my hand on his shoulder and smiling, “it is.”

#advent #collection #familytime #alzheimers #orthodox #oillamp