I quit my job at a company I had committed to for 15 years. During my first days home, I enthusiastically purged stuff from my house that accumulated when marriage was new and the kids were babies; plant stands made by an uncle, my grandmother’s old dishware, and my now divorced parent’s anniversary silver. It felt freeing.
I pawed through the kitchen junk drawer and placed used birthday candles in a “toss” pile with rubber bands, expired coupons and sixty pairs of chopsticks. By the time I rounded up the 45th candle, I realized I’d been counting the melted things.
They were mismatched and encrusted with frosting; aqua from my middle son’s cake when he turned two and insisted on “a tall white cake with a blue goat on the top.” There was dark brown chocolate from my eldest son’s 7th birthday when he wanted a President’s Day theme and a cake decorated like a penny. He was so shy. I spent the days before his birthday with my stomach cramping with stress, hoping parents would bring their children to the party of the quiet boy who liked U.S. Presidents. Bits of King Triton’s trident encrusted some, a remnant of my youngest son’s birthday when he was mesmerized with the Little Mermaid’s father and his sea green tail. There was traditional white buttercream from mine and my husband’s birthdays over the past 16 years.
I took the candle bits to the sink,
rinsed them in warm water,
scraped them clean,
broke off the bumpy nibs,
patted them dry,
put them back in the drawer-
imagined the wishes blown over the black lit wicks,
wondered where that long breath goes.