20 Candles

PUPPY-CANDLESThis morning I had breakfast by candlelight. At 7AM, it was still dark out, and in this almost-winter holiday season, I find I am addicted to light. Flashlights and camp lanterns, Chanukah candles, Christmas tree lights, red mini-lights that frame the mudroom door and solar-powered garden lamps that line the long driveway. But all the lights in the world won’t lift the heaviness I feel this Sunday morning, thinking of 20 mothers in Connecticut who now grieve the loss of their young children.

I bail out of the Sunday morning hike early and mope most of the day away watching the wind and rain play on the surface of the pond. I cannot read; I cannot write. So I light 20 candles.

To capture 20 small dancing flames in a photograph is beyond my skills. Frustrated, I fidget with the camera and the candles. Then, absently, I sweep the spent matchsticks into my hand. But one is still hot and it burns my palm before I fling it to the floor, sending a nearby tea mug crashing at my feet. It shatters like buckshot.

When the scattered shards are all picked up, before dragging myself to a friend’s party with a bowl of fresh strawberries, I finally place plastic battery-operated candlesticks in the front windows. By nightfall, soothing bright lights shimmer in every corner of the house. Sweet lights. They beckon, they plead: come home.

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