Tuesday, December 14, 2010
She was our speech coach when I was in high school. A sweet, grandmotherly sort, who hovered and cooed and generally let us know we were loved. We were talented. We were terrific. We deserved a Christmas party, and she threw one at her house over Christmas break every year.
She had a lovely, grandmotherly house, too. Her Christmas lighting was simple: candles in the windows. Electric candles, yes, but the effect on on me was magic. Subtle and cozy and lovely ... they beckoned. And, once inside, in the Patterson fold, she confirmed that beckoning: "When you have all graduated, and gone off to college, you can always come back to visit me. If you drive by my house when you're home for Christmas, I hope you'll stop and see me. As long as the candles are in the window, I'll be here."
I never did go back after I graduated. I remember driving by her house once or twice, to see if the candles were still in the windows. They were, but even then I wasn't one to drop in unannounced. Oh, I believed her when she said we could. But somehow I didn't think I could. My day had passed. The candles still whispered magic to me, but the magic of her home already seemed a lifetime ago, and I knew I couldn't recapture it. I was already, I thought, a different person.
Sometime later, I heard that Mrs. Patterson had died. Cancer, I think. I cried a little, thinking of her sweetness. Her light. Her gift of hospitality. Her sincerity. I never drove past her house again because although I hadn't taken her up on her invitation, I couldn't stand the thought of those bare, dark windows.
And now, in these days of Advent, as we are waiting for His coming -- waiting to celebrate His birth, and as we contemplate His final Coming -- I think of the candles that still call to me. The flames I really do return to, again and again.
In the confessional.
In Holy Mass.
Flickering next to the tabernacle.
As long as the candles are lit, He will be there. Waiting.
For Mrs. Patterson. For you. For me. And this time around, when I feel like a different person, I know that it's true
The magic of Jesus beckons, and I will never be the same.