Friday, March 7, 2008

The Glow of the Old Oil Lamp (GUEST POST)

My brother sent me a great essay he wrote about old oil lamps and he gave me permission to use it as a guest post on my blog. Enjoy!

Weather in Indiana, as any Hoosier will testify, is an unpredictable beast. In fact many Hoosiers have said that if you don’t like the weather here, wait a week! Sitting in my recently electricity deprived home, dealing with the ravages of an ice storm, I recollect previous inclement weather occasions basking in the glow of old oil lamps. Yes, oil lamps. Unlike power outages at my parents’ house which entailed hunting for candles and hopefully a flashlight that had un-corroded batteries, my grandmother used oil lamps. On the rare occasion that I might be at Grandma’s when the power was out, we went for the old oil lamps.


Grandma had one of her mother’s oil lamps as well as a couple belonging to grandpa’s family in the west room built in glass front cabinet. In this cabinet Grandma kept many treasures such as: Halloween decorations, her parents school slates, some of their old school books, an old crock with numerous odds and ends that were found about the house, cookbooks and all sorts of different items that intrigue a young boy with a curious mind. The lamps were kept on the top shelf with the chimneys waiting to be placed back on the brass burner for their next use. The top shelf wasn’t tall enough for the chimneys to be stored on the lamps, but they were always ready for use when the time would arise.

On such occasions when I helped clean the cabinet or actually got to help light the lamps during a power outage, Grandma would ask me to carefully hand her down a lamp and then the chimney. A box of Ohio Blue-tip matches kept in the kitchen cabinet would be brought to the table and she would place the lamp in the center of the kitchen table and light the lamp telling me the story of her tending the lamps as a child before her parents had electricity on the farm.

One of her daily chores at the home place was to tend to the oil lamps every morning by trimming the wicks and to keep the chimneys clean from coal oil soot that would collect from burning the lamps at night. Newspaper was often used after the chimneys were washed to rub the glass to create a spotless shine for the flame to illuminate a room. Her mother, Myrtle, was very particular about her housekeeping so everything had to be just right. After electricity came to the home place, the lamps were kept for keepsakes from a time gone by and in case of an emergency.

Times have changed and there seem to be fewer power outages. Grandma and Grandpa are both gone, along with the house where many special memories were formed. I still cling to the happiness of those times I spent in their home. Myrtle’s oil lamp holds a place of honor in my home on top of our kitchen cabinet, filled with oil, ready to light up a room just as it is doing right now.

Some of my family wonder why I have always loved oil lamps and why I display the few I have collected around my home. I don’t wonder . . . not as I sit staring at the flame that brightens the dark expanse in the parlor brought about by Indiana weather. That one lamp brings the warmest feeling to my soul and smile to my face. The excitement I still get as a 36-year-old carefully bringing that oil lamp down from the cabinet, cleaning the globe and lighting the lamp takes me back to Grandma’s house and the comforts and good times I experienced in their home.

As I began typing the last sentence, the power company prevails as power returns to our home. So, the oil lamps will be blown out and returned to their place of honor until the next use where I will once again remember my grandmother’s legacy by taking down an oil lamp.

Thank you, Grandma, for being a light in my darkness and sharing your life with us.


-Bobert, 2008

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KPCL Girl said...

Okay, you got me. I cried at this one... Nostalgia, times past, people past... Soak it up, soak it all up now while you still can...

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