The Red Candle

I love Christmas and I love candles, especially the red, green and orange ones that we would find in those old smelly boxes in the attic at Christmas time. I loved the old fashioned plastic kind. Some candle stands had five candles, reserved for the front windows of our house. Some had three reserved for the upstairs, and then there were the single candles used for the side windows and other odd windows that just needed to be decorated. All were hollow, plastic and contained a different color bulb. My all time favorite color, and still is, the single red candle. This is how this memory came to be.

The time was somewhere between 1945 and 1955. When it came time to decorate for Christmas, our house never changed. We would have candles in each window, a small wreath attached to the window blind, and, of course, a tree all decorated with ornaments from past Christmas seasons. Living in a rural community in southcentral Pennsylvania, we didn’t attract a lot of traffic to see our house, but I knew that Santa could see it, and that was the most important thing.

One year, when I was 7, I decided I would help Santa by making our house just a little easier to find, in case there was snow or fog. I chose the side window facing the driveway. It was the most important window in the house, according to me. From this window we could see if company had arrived, if the snow plow had gone, and most importantly, was Dad home yet. By the window was a hassock, and this was where our furry friend “Tiny,” a terrier dog of small stature, would sit and warn us of any intruders, and it was where I spent most of that Christmas evening. I placed the single red candle in the window (I may have even washed the window), and rolled the blind up as far as it would go. Quite often I would go to the window, sit down on the hassock beside Tiny, look up and wonder if Santa could or would see my candle. Of course, he did.

Photo: iStockphoto.com/aceshot

I’m not sure what I asked for that year, but I must have gotten it. As a family of eight, living off the garden and the smokehouse, we never had many material things and never expected any. Dad made little money, Mom took care of us, and we were happy, but somehow they always managed to get us that one “something special” item from the Sears Christmas catalog.

There was a beautiful blanket of snow that year, and as my brothers and I sat playing with what Santa had provided, I looked out the window, and there was Dad, wading around in the snow with an ax in his hand, trimming out a tree that had fallen into our yard.  “What is he doing out there,” I asked in a very concerned voice, but no one answered. Then it dawned on me. Santa did not bring my dad anything for Christmas! It made me so sad to see him out there working, while we were inside enjoying the day. Mom was cooking a wonderful Christmas dinner, my sisters were probably trying on something new that Santa had left, we boys were playing in a warm house, and Dad was outside, all alone, working. And then it dawned on me. As I looked out the window I saw a Dad who had given his all for his kids, and I cried. I saw such a pure, unselfish, shining example of what our Heavenly Father did for us when He died to take away our sins. His salvation plan became so much clearer that day    

That Christmas I received the best Christmas gift of all, compassion. I did not know what the feeling was at the time. All I wanted to do, at that very moment, was to somehow give my dad a present. Maybe I already had and didn’t know it.

That memory with the candle and ax are still with me, and they have served me well. As I grew older, I came to realize that these feelings of love and compassion could be expressed and shared, with Dad and Mom and the rest of the family, and eventually the whole world.

Sitting here at the computer, December 2013, those wonderful memories come flooding back to me. Dad has long since passed from this earth and Mom just recently. I know they would approve of me passing on that gift that was given to me so many seasons, ago, when I put a single red candle in the window.

Published on Dec 13, 2013

Grit Magazine

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