In grade four, our teacher taught us to dip candles. Then in December she announced there would be a Best Candle Contest. The prize: an illustrated book of The Night Before Christmas. I knew that poem by heart and thought it would be nice to have the book. I was also addicted to contests – colouring contests, country fair raffles, jelly bean estimating. Add all of the above to a love for this newly-learned art of dipping candles, and you had a keener for this contest. I ran home the day of the announcement to get started on my entry.
My next door neighbour knew I had a penchant for sparkly things and had once given me a big rhinestone. This was in the days before dollar stores, and cut glass jewels were as rare and precious to me as the real thing. Now, as my little white taper hung from its wick to solidify, I took the dazzling gem out of my treasure box and sunk it into the warm wax, right in the middle of the six-inch-tall candle. I then sprinkled a soupçon of silver glitter over the whole thing – and voila! paraffin magic!
The day of the judging, I wrapped my glittery wonder in a piece of tissue paper – its sparkly cyclopean eye winked at me, declaring itself the best candle ever. I had a lovely walk to school that morning, carrying my candle in a paper bag, dreaming of winning the book. At school, I laid it on the table set up for all the contending creations. I thought it looked pretty good next to my classmates’ efforts, and it gave me a thrill just to think I had made such a beauty. To me, it was in the same camp as silver stars in a twilit sky or a pale moon at dawn or harp music.
There was a general buzz in the air, then the whole room fell silent as Eloise Roane’s mother entered the classroom carrying Eloise’s entry: a big sparkling holiday scene – not just a candle but a whole Broadway production on a tin foil base. A perfect red taper, twice the length of my candle, grew out of holly sprigs and silver bells and shiny ribbons.
And the whole shebang was topped with soap suds!
The delicate sparkling froth wobbled as Mrs. Roane carefully placed the masterpiece on the table. I imagine now the process: it starts with Mrs. Roane finding the idea in Readers Digest and it ends with Mrs. Roane whipping suds up in the kitchen sink while her car idles in the driveway – niftily she plops suds on the yuletide scene to create a winter wonderland; finally, she instructs the junior Roane to get into the car and carefully hold the creation on her lap. Fortunately, they lived only a few blocks from school.
My own candle looked like a pale one-eyed urchin lying next to the Las Vegas centerpiece created by Mrs. Roane, I mean, by Eloise. She won of course.
Later that week, I packaged my candle up and sent it to my Grannie on Pender Island for Christmas. She liked it very much and it looked splendid in a candlestick on her mantelpiece. Best candle ever.
Footnote: photo was shot by the author in the best bubble bath ever. Happy Holidays, everyone!
- Goodbye City of Angels
- Christmas Eve in Shaughnessy Heights