Walking Backwards for Christmas — Solihull, Christmas Eve, 1960 — Grammer’s Tree, Part 2

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“Reggie, think back to Diwali,” Stan said.

“It celebrates the return uff Rama and his triumph over fear, envy, greed and lust. Rama, who searches the world for his bride Sita and will not give up until he finds her. Rama, who wins a great military victory in liberating Sita but does so not through physical strength, nor even through the siddhis or powers that spiritual beings can acquire, but through faith, love, justice and purity.

”Diwali celebrates Ganesha, who presides over the birth uff new principled and honorable beginnings and removes obstacles from the way uff those devoted to him. Diwali celebrates Saraswati, she who presides over music, wisdom, literature, nature and learning, she who opens the channels uff  knowledge to also ensure increased compassion. Diwali celebrates light over the darkness, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair and good over evil.

“A new birth? A new beginning? A king triumphant by faith and love over might? The husband who searches for his wife and rescues her, and the shepherd who does the same for his sheep? Knowledge converted into compassion?

“Is there a pattern here, Reggie?

“Diwali and Christmas – are they truly so different? Cannot the one help the other? Enrich the other? Draw on the other?”

“So if the lights surround the tree,” I said, “instead of being in its branches in one room …”

“You still have your light and eternal life together,” Stan replied.

“What do you think, Grammer?” I ask.

“Now, I do believe, we’re farming.”

Grammer didn’t exactly glow, but she smiled the first genuine smile I’d seen on her in months.

So, after clearing away the dishes, we gathered all the candles we could. There were those Grammer had set aside in the event of power loss during the rains; Christmas tree candles from the past predating her love affair with electric tree lights; long forgotten jack-o-lantern candles that might well have been lit by an adolescent Uncle Roddy or Auntie Gene; boxes of unused birthday cake candles and tea lights; even half-used dinner candles from way back, looking as if they might have last been lit before my aunt and uncle were even on solid food.

 Everything we could find we placed all around the entryway where Uncle Roddy had left the tree, all of it waiting to be lit as soon as the tree was decorated.

Stan and I were becoming old hands at this sort of candle lighting and, although leaning over the stairway to light a few proved a small challenge, we, who’d lit nearly an entire lower floor of a house during a single twilight, had no trouble lighting a mere entryway in less than 15 minutes. We doused the lamps and the three of us examined our handiwork.

It was as if an invisible hand had guided where we’d placed each candle and ornament alike. Rembrandt himself couldn’t have managed to catch so much candlelight in so many ornaments that it seemed, at first glance, that there really were candles on the tree, or placed the shadows better to enhance the candlelight, real and reflected, throughout the room.


No one said a word. We all simply stood there and stared.

Perhaps a quarter of an hour went by before Grammer stepped in between Stan and me and placed one arm each around us. “Boys, even if I live to be 100, I doubt that I shall ever again see a Christmas image as magical as this one. Look at it well, etch it in yer minds, hold it in yer hearts, for while I may hope y ‘re young enough to see its like again, it may well be a moment that will never be repeated in yer young lives either.”


© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall is now available from Amazon Books. So is The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One). Click on the links and check them out further. They both make great stocking stuffers — to say nothing of a bit of seasonal — and post seasonal — reading for yourself.

The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be out early in 2018. The next book of the Reggie Stone series, By Good Angels Tenanted, will be available later in 2018.