It is often the most inexpensive presents which give the greatest pleasure, both to the giver and the receiver.
December, 2004 The Christmas festivities began and the seasonal spirit increased as the month wore on: the taste of the first advent calendar chocolate, the Christmas tree and the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg. I was only six years old and was ecstatic at the thought of Father Christmas passing through in a few weeks time. As the teachers set about devising new Christmas tasks for us, each more extraordinary than the last, my classmates discussed their lengthy Christmas wish lists which would soon be despatched to the elves in good time for wrapping up by the 24th.
In one lesson, we were each given a small candle with a glass holder, just an inch tall. Odd pens were circulated around the room and we were told to decorate the candles with ‘Christmassy’ images.
If you took the time to watch certain children you could observe the quiet concentration and determined way they positioned each decoration, as if they knew how much someone was going to treasure their gift. An hour later, the desk were covered with candles on which blobs of green, red and silver had been messily splattered, and others which were really quite delicately adorned.
June, 2008 An old sun umbrella, now rather ineffective in its job, was put up at the same time as a blue tablecloth was thrown over the garden table and a simple summer lunch laid out for the two of us to enjoy together. As I sat down to eat with my beloved Grandmother we simultaneously looked up at the kitchen shelf which was just visible from the patio. Amidst the pots of rice, lentils, sugar and tea sat the small candle I had made and given to her four years earlier.
We had discussed lighting it many times but had decided that it would be more enjoyable to light it at a time when we were both together and there were no other distractions. We pondered on whether to get the matches there and then but eventually resolved to leave it for another time, as a sunny afternoon just did not seem to do it justice.
August, 2012 Life had changed a lot since my quiet summer lunch with my Grandmother. My family had moved to Scotland, leaving my sister and me still at school down in Wiltshire, but my Grandmother lived close by. I stayed with her for a few days during the lengthy summer holidays and we had once again discussed the candle as it grew dusty sitting on the kitchen shelf.
We did not enjoy any lunches out in the garden this summer though because she did not really want to eat and she seemed very tired. We ate a little in the evenings, now inside in the sitting room, but the candle was still visible from our seats. Once again we had decided against lighting it. The time was just not right.
September, 2012 The boarding house receded behind us and my mood lifted - a family weekend away is an amazing treat for a full-boarder. A day of relaxation with those closest to us is all you need to make you smile, but in a moment one’s smile can vanish to be replaced with tears.
A phone call. Suddenly the car was rushing along the country roads, all laughter had ceased and instead there was silence. No awkwardness, just a certain sadness. The tears waiting to fall but not strong enough to overcome the rapid blinking…yet.
The boarding house came into view again and my parents quickly departed. Days flew by, merging into one into another.
October, 2012 I sat down next to her bed and I smiled as she relaxed back into her pillows knowing it I who was now beside her. I had brought a small book of poetry from which she used to read to me when I was much younger.
Carefully, I lit the candle. My vision blurred and the first of many tears rolled down my cheek. She opened her eyes just enough to see, as her eyes found the candle she smiled, and then calmly shut them again. I slowly and quietly read our favourite poems, taking great care not to speak too quickly, soothing her with my voice.
Later, as I walked out of the bedroom I was filled with sadness but I was content because we had shared a moment together which we had talked about so often. It was the perfect way to mark our final farewell.