Thursday, May 6, 2021

What I don't know about candles

or driving a UHaul truck through the streets of Washington DC, or driving a small compact car for that matter, for one thing:

Where do you park? How in God's name will you unload the UHaul? 

There's an alleyway behind my daughter's new apartment. She's on the ground floor of a four story building and something I didn't know: the below-ground floor is fancily called an "English Basement." The stairs leading down toward the hobbit-sized front door that won't fit a chair are steep. We will have to use the back entrance for the couch, the mattress, the kitchen table. Essentially, we are re-assembling furniture from all of our past houses into this apartment, excuse me, into this English Basement. 

Our kitchen table with crayon marks scrawled inside a drawer. Our daughter's name, written when she was in pre-school. The mattress my husband and I splurged on and paid off in monthly installments for three years. A plant. Will it get enough light in this place? The alleyway is very narrow. Too narrow, to be honest, but my husband is a patient and brave man. 

He pulls through achingly slow, attempts a turn, so we can start to unload, all of us realizing too late that the angle is too sharp. The truck won't make it through. He will have to back up. Avoid brushing the sides of the other apartments, the drain pipes jutting out, the corner of someone's living room, with only millimeters to spare. Who has time to feel nostalgia or sadness about daughters leaving home to live in English basements in faraway cities at a dangerous moment like this?

More like 30 excruciating minutes of dangerous moments 

as my husband inches his way back out. Once, his brave mask slips from his face and my heart bangs crazily. In the end, he double parks in the street. The boyfriend and his helpful friend lug the couch around the block, the mattress, the tables, down the alley way, down the back steps, while my daughter and her lovely friend tote the smaller things through the hobbit door in the front. 

Later we all flop out on our old couch and our daughter lights a new candle. I am sweating so much under my mask, my heart still hammering wildly from watching the UHaul nightmare, from driving myself through the busy streets so my husband can drop off the damn truck. "I had to drive through a parade!" he says, half laughing, half looking like he might burst into tears. 

It wasn't a parade. Just a Saturday night in this hopping trendy neighborhood. To settle myself, I put my daughter's books away, arranging them alphabetically by author and then doing my version of Dewey with the non-fiction collection, an activity that immediately calms me. I move the candle, blow it out, and my daughter rushes over, upset. 

Didn't I know that when you first burn a candle, it has to burn long enough to melt the wax all the way to the rim? 

No, I did not know that. 

While she bustles around unpacking the kitchen, she asks me to fix the candle. There's a way, she says. You can find it online. Something to do with tinfoil. 

I think she's joking, but sure enough, I find a complicated-seeming process for fixing a "tunneled candle" on a Better Homes and Gardens site. There's even a helpful Youtube video included. 

But my brain feels too tired to learn new things. How to fix candle problems that I've never heard of before. How to watch a brave patient man back up a fifteen foot truck. How to smile and wave from the safety of our small car, drive away from the English basement and the fun busy streets, set our daughter back on the path she would always have been on, if not for a global pandemic,

and us, back to our quiet old house, filled with--I realize now--an assortment of tunneled candles, just waiting for me to fix them. 

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