This week Eldest and I have been eating breakfast by candlelight. I realized we hadn't lit the Advent wreath on Sunday, and it seemed a nice idea to light it Monday in the early-morning darkness.
There's something about the flickering warmth of candles that brings my thoughts around to mystery. Nowadays we illuminate our world brightly and crisply, and I think it gives us the illusion that we know much more than we do. We operate as if everything is see-able and knowable, or at least should be see-able and knowable. I'm not sure that's healthy. Much of life is not incandescent; people most surely are not! I've been married to Andrew for 16+ years, and while on most days I think I know and understand my spouse, there are others on which I look at him in confusion, as if he just popped in from outer space. With people there is always history we don't know, and subtleties we don't grasp, and patterns of thinking that are alien to our own. There is nuance. Like memories, much of what we know about the people we love lies on the edge of shadows.
Gazing at Eldest eating her gingerbread in the soft glow of candlelight, I remember things about her that I don't remember under electric lights. There are memories of stories of Milky-Milky (a cow) and Walky-Walky (a horse) that I told at bedtime when she was a preschooler. My mind wanders to her ocean-themed birthday party when she was four. My arms recall comforting her the first time she forgot to do her homework. My ears remember the excitement when her much-beloved Alison arrived to teach math. By candlelight it is easy to appreciate that there is a certain miracle in the fact that this marvelous being across the table is my child. How did that happen?
I have been silently waxing nostalgic during breakfast lately, perhaps in part because early this week Eldest submitted the last of her college applications. Last night we heard from the school to which she applied early. She was accepted. Among my future memories will be the resounding shout of joy that burst forth from her as she read the news. This is my child. What a gift. What a gift.