The Corner

The Bright Side of a Dark Night

There’s this much to be said for living by candlelight: it provides an excuse for giving the kids a history lesson. On Christmas Day, I reminded them, they took turns getting on the telephone to say a few words to my Aunt Ethel, my mother’s older sister, who will turn 96 next month (my mother died several years ago). When she was a little girl, I explained, Aunt Ethel lived on a farm without electricity, plumbing, refrigeration, or automobiles. She when to be each night by lantern light. She ate a breakfast each morning that her mother had cooked over a wood-burning stove. Then she went off on a horse-drawn sleigh to study in a one-room schoolhouse. Imagine that, I said. There’s still a member of your own family alive who can remember what it was like to live by candlelight every day of the year.

One child yawned, and another, I noticed, had fallen sound asleep. But one of the kids actually seemed interested and impressed, which was reward enough.

And so to bed.

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