perfectly good

It’s All Hallows’ Eve. A few days ago I got to explain to a classmate — he’s from South Africa — “what the big deal is” with Halloween in the US. Fresh from my visit to Dublin, I noted that Anglo-Irish-Scots folk planted on the eastern seaboard from our earliest nation-years have shaped a lot of US culture. “Oh, yeah, Celts; that’s right!” [Nota Bene: current Irish observance of our shared holiday owes a lot to its export and re-import, go figure. Also there are now Día de los Muertos paper caleveras in some of the shops in Dublin. Huh.]


My Sweetie’s usual workouts are Wednesdays, so I assured him I’d hold down the festal fort. He’s laid in a new supply of outdoor decorations (his purview), and I’ve promised to light the new ceramic-ish pumpkin lantern with a handful of tea-lights. The kind that require matches; I’m old-fashioned that way even if the lantern’s no longer vegetal. A few concessions to the Empty Nest and our (my) new schedule is fine, but I’m drawing the line at battery-candles.

I’m thus at home, not in my carrel until 5pm, since that’s the little-ones’ visiting hour. I’m on the sofa debating my itch to read/manipulate my pocket computer (aka phone) rather than consume another chapter of Darsán,

and I think: tea lights. Did I really throw away those fall-tinted Ikea tea lights? The ones that tried to be fall-scented but failed? (They didn’t even smell of normal dead things, which would be a different sort of fall smell(!). They smelled like a fragrance accident.) I would wince every time I opened that cupboard, and I haven’t been, so I think — yay, me! — I have tossed them.

I may have done this even two years ago.

But I’m still mentally seeing them as “perfectly good” tea lights. I mean, the wicks would light, and the wax would burn just as candles are designed to. And if you set them outside… as in a Halloween lantern-type deployment… the nasty smell of wrongness would be far enough away to keep from troubling anyone. Good enough! And one wouldn’t be wasteful!


One of the small side effects of all that therapy in my 20s has been acquiring a practice much like Marie Kondo’s “spark joy.” That is, thrift is worthy, but there are other… we’ll call them valences of value… to assess besides “Has it ceased to function?” Or one could say I’ve widened my definition of “function.” “Has to be reglued in order to keep out water,” regarding my Wellington boots, was not at first a condition of failure (see: thrift), but now that it’s a half-dozen spots it is. After a handful of years wincing each time I peripherally encountered those orange, green, and brown stubby candles, I decided that “wincing over something that initially cost $3” pushed them over into “non-functional.” (Dollar value is sometimes a factor in the calculation, but not as often as you might think.)

Even still, I’m pretty sure My Sweetie said, “You’re getting rid of those?” He’s at least as thrifty as I; it remains to be seen what dubious treasures our kids are going to have to sift through.

And I may have shrunk from actually throwing them away.

I may have forwarded that responsibility on to the charity shop,

where shoppers could walk the aisle, wince, and say, “What IS that SMELL?!? Oh, two dozen tea lights for 50¢? And such pretty colors!”

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