Over the course of many summers on Marthas Vineyard, my friends and I normally indulged in simple joys of childhood: swimming, playing games, sailing boats, fishing, and so on. Yet, every once in a while, wed do something that involved an adult; one summer, that something was making candles in the kitchen of the MacDuff cottage.
I dont really recall how I ended up in their kitchen; I probably just stopped by to see if Reed wanted to go out and play. He invited me in and showed me the candle hed just made it looked like a miniature blue lumpy volcano, but it also looked like the coolest thing Id ever seen. His mom asked if I wanted to try, and of course I said yes. Feeding the ducks or swimming could wait; this was something new and different.
Reeds mom took a short length of string, tied a knot in the end, and then handed it to me. She said I was to dip it in the pot of melted wax, but to be careful not to get it on me, and then lift it out and dunk it in the pot next to it. It held the cold water. After that, I was to put it back in the wax, then back in the water, and back and forth.
So, I gave it a try. At first, it was rather disappointing; the string just seemed to turn blue. Yet, I knew Reeds mom she was a good egg and I knew she wouldnt steer me down a blind alley or wrong trail. If she said it would work; I knew it to be true. Besides, Reed had his candle, which he was proudly displaying, as proof of how awesome an activity this was.
Going back and forth, back and forth, the wax slowly built up on the string, and gradually a candle began to take shape. Yet, it wasnt like the Pilgrim movies Id seen in school. In those, the people always formed up the perfect little candles by dipping the wicks in the wax. Mine, well, it was rather, lumpy. At the time, I didnt understand why, but it was simply due to me not shaking the water droplets off of the candle after each dunk in the water pot. But hey, I was a little kid, whatd I know?
Over time, I finally got my candle up to a decent size, and Mrs. MacDuff declared it done. I held it in my hand; it was so very warm and soft and mushy and so very lumpy but I didnt care; it was my candle, Id made it. So, thanking her for letting me make a candle, I raced on home, Reed in tow, and proudly presented my creation to my mother; youd have thought Id just won an Oscar or Nobel Prize from the way I acted. And, I have to say, my mother reacted so nicely. She took that misshapen mass, that huge glop of soft and soggy wax, and she put it on a little plate and set in on the kitchen counter. From the way she acted, youd have thought I had just won an award.
She did what any good mother did (and does) when presented with a macaroni artwork or a handmade pot holder or any of the myriad creations that small children make with love for their mother; she thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Now, I have no idea if that candle burned, ever. I have no memory of ever seeing it again. More than likely, it went the way of so many other simply awful childhood creations. But, for that moment, Id made my mom happy and the glow of pure glee, I remember, to this day, makes all the stupid effort I put into that sad, silly creation worthwhile. She later thanked Mrs. MacDuff for letting me do that, and asked how she might do it herself. As Mrs. MacDuff said, it was fun, but oh the clean up was miserable! We never did make another candle, something I regret; yet, I have the memory of that one to cherish. I gave my mother something special, and for that, I have Mrs. MacDuff to thank.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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