August 22, 2016
This is a picture of the first dress I can remember. I loved it so much and called it my angel dress. Recently my sister returned it to me after discovering it in the bottom of her adult daughter’s closet. I am sure I gave it to her kids thinking they could use it to play dress up. As I examined it closely, I was surprised how well this sixty some year old dress had made it through the years with just a few rips and tears. The workmanship and the fabric were different than most of the products we purchase today. We were more European then, buying fewer things that were better made,each item delivering a bigger impact.
Like my first fancy dress, I also remember my blue birthday candle.It was the exact same color as my dress. Every year on my birthday my Mother would retrieve it from the bottom shelf of the china cabinet. I would light it at my place at the table when dinner started and it would burn down until it reached my new age. The numbers went up to eighteen and I would look ahead at the unburned part of the candle dreaming of what the following years would bring.
When I was in NYC recently, I went to the Whitney Museum. On the top floor, standing in front of a huge plate glass window was an imposing ten foot high wax sculpture of Julian Schnabel, who was an artist friend of the sculptor. He was dressed in a blue work jacket and paint splattered pants. As I studied it, I noticed a part of the top of his head was missing, and as I looked even closer I realized there was a wick on the top of his head lit with a flame and he was being burned like my birthday candle. I read the artist’s statement about how he had created this figure as a burnable candle to represent how time passes and how we eventually all disappear.
It reminded me of my birthday candle. As I lit it,I would recall the year that had passed,but I was much more interested in the year that was about to commence. Even as a child I knew there was no going back and the candle that represented my life would not burn forever…..in fact, just to eighteen.
Perhaps that is why we blow candles out on our birthday cakes each year.The joyful celebratory singing ends as the flames are extinguished by our own breath, not to be lit until the following year. It is a worthy ritual to bring our awareness to the time that has passed and the wonder of the year that is about to unfold.