The Blue Candles

Note from Tim Gathany for the Holiday Season:

The Blue Candles

This is a personal family story, but I felt it was appropriate for the Christmas and New Year Season since the attached poem illustrates the lives of Leon and Rachel Gathany in their Toccoa home.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, my family and I would often travel to Georgia for the holidays and spend Christmas with Leon and Rachel. One of my children’s favorite memories was arriving at their grandparents’ home in Georgia and seeing a candelabra in the front window lit with blue bulbs. The blue candles fascinated my oldest son, Nicholas, since he thought the blue lights were not the colors you would expect from candles.

Grandma Rachel had obtained the candelabra years ago when she lived in Pennsylvania and family friends were moving to Florida and downsizing. These Christmas decorations included many items that today would we considered vintage. Apparently, the donated candelabra always had blue candles and Rachel continued using this blue color for the bulbs in her several homes in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Georgia.

These blue candles took on a special meaning for the family, as a memento of our visits to Georgia and the excitement of reuniting with my children’s grandparents. Even when we could not make the holiday trek to Georgia, the question in our telephone calls was always asked, “Are the blue candles in the front window?”

The poem was written in commemoration of those visits to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s home and the sights and events surrounding the holiday season. For example, Leon traditionally read the poem, “When Father Carves the Duck,” before we sang a seasonal hymn and were finally allowed to enjoy Rachel’s delicious holiday feast. Rachel would sit down at the piano to play and sing Christmas songs with her grandchildren.

Our visit would not be complete without a tour of the log barn to view the progress in restoring this vintage building and in organizing Leon’s mounted animal displays and other collections. Many of those items are now in the Leon & Rachel Gathany Museum of Natural History on the Toccoa Falls College campus.

Rachel wasn’t fond of one line in the poem, the one about gag gifts. However, she had a mischievous side to her and we expected that at least one family member would get a “white elephant” gift, something unusual that would cause much laughter.

So, whether or not you ever visited Leon & Rachel Gathany in their Toccoa home, read this poem and imagine you’re there during the holiday season. What would you see and hear?

The Blue Candles

Christmas 2004

Grandma’s in the kitchen
cooking pumpkin pie,
Grandpa’s getting wood
and stoking up the fire.
Later she’ll be singing
while her grandkids play along.
He’s got that duck poem ready for
the reading and the song.

Fox is playing loudly as
the talking heads profess.
Then there’s knocking at the door
from unexpected guests,
Still someone’s calling on the phone
with roadkill to be mounted.
There’s much to hear, see and learn
and blessing to be counted.

Outdoors the winter wild birds
feast and gladly sing
While compost sets the garden
right for the coming spring.
The chimney smoke paints
backdrops for this winter wooded view
And God watches over house and
barn and surely these precious two.

Inside the tree is lit and garnished with
their vintage memories.
The gag gifts have been chosen,
wrapped and placed beneath the tree.
They’re thinking of their loved ones
both near and far away.
Grandma’s blue candles are brightly lit
and everything’s OK.

Copyright 2004 TAG

One thought on “The Blue Candles”

  1. Hey Tim, just wanted to say thanks for sharing that poem! (Am so glad that, right before the poem, you asked the question… “What would you see and hear?”… because that made me sit down and stop doing other things, like walking through the house on my way to do the next thing, with my mind half on whatever the next chore was, and only skimming through the poem.) But since you posed that question before the poem, I actually sat down to read the poem while doing nothing else, so I could take it all in; the wording in the poem drew me in, and made it really easy to imagine being there and getting to experience those things! Also, it’s one thing to paint a picture so well with words… but to do it with the rhyming words is so talented!! Thanks again for sharing it – it was really neat! Take care, and I hope you don’t stop writing!! Debby (Coggins) Schmidt

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