Observation from on high of a point in the last few weeks of liminal time:
It’s Friday night, the night before Solstice. We have finished dinner and TMoTH and Geeklet are washing up. I sneak out and down the front stairs in an effort to keep the motion-sensor light in the back from washing out our tiny back yard. My arms are full of cored apples and candles and matches. In the mostly darkness I arrange boughs of evergreen in a small spiral on the grass, an upturned clay pot in the center. I set an apple on the pot. In the apple I set a candle. I set the candle alight.
The boys come down. In the dark the candle glows, welcoming, powerful, scary. Geeklet holds tight to our hands, but he’s excited too. Strangely, he’s quiet (for him). I set the rest of the apples and the matches down, and in as much silence as can be mustered while demonstrating what to do to a four-year-old, indicate the idea. I go first.
As we all softly sing, “Wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail/ Wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail/ And bring the Solstice round, and sing the Solstice round,” I walk slowly along the branches of the spiral until I reach the clay pot in the center. I lean down and light the candle in the apple in my hand from the candle on the pot. I make my way back along the spiral and place my apple on the ground, nestled among the branches.
TMoTH goes next, wee G and I singing with him, and then the boy. He is sure of himself, and accepts only a little help from a slightly nervous mother in lighting his candle. Finally, we all walk the spiral one last time with a family candle.
When we step back, the neighborhood is quiet, the sky is dark and filled with stars, and we have a small spiral galaxy laid out on our back yard. We hold hands and sing. The glowing points of light transform our staid little weed-strewn alley-access yard into a meadow of stars.
When the guys have come upstairs later, I’ve already put out all of the lights and lit candles throughout the apartment. We sit under the tree, telling stories–Solstice stories, of the sun’s weariness and return; stories of our own childhood celebrations. The lights twinkle and glow, a candle-spun chime tinkles faintly. When Geeklet uses the bathroom, it’s magic to carry an apple-lantern in with him to fight the gloom of the ever-penetrating darkness. We are tired so much earlier, without the artificial glow of electric luminescence to convince us otherwise. We light the bedtime candles with an apple-candle lantern and tell more stories in bed, to a small boy dressed in sweatpants, ready to wake before dawn to race outside and welcome the sun.