Monday, October 19, 2009

Wick Obsessions

You know what's out of hand? The use, proliferation, design, display – and in weird cases, de-worming and post-graduate schooling – of one thing: The Candle. Personally I'm mired 18-inch-pillar deep in a hostile takeover by wax. I have candles in the kitchen. In the bathroom. On the coffee table. On my nightstand. I have candles that are defunct because I can't manage to dig out their wicks anymore. I've spent days trying, only to destroy entire knife sets as well as fondly remembered sections of my flesh. But when you've burnt only a smidgen of a 90-pound candle and can't light it anymore, you feel like an eco-criminal for tossing all that unused wax. Soon things like work and bathing give way to a clinical case of wick obsession.

Why don't I take all that old wax and make new candles? Sure, and right after that I'll whip up a fresh rosemary wreath and sew some adorable satin paisley remote control holders. Besides, if you don't melt the wax just right you'll start a very dangerous, Cinn-a-Maple-scented fire.

When I moved in with my husband, his offerings were added to my sorry collection of half-used tea lights, hideously malformed votives, and jar candles with that attractive soot coating. We now have enough candles to cremate Pennsylvania, if we could indeed release their wicks.

You have to hand it to candle manufacturers, though, for their creative and increasingly longer scent names, like Raspberry Almond Truffle, Sandy Pine Creek Breeze, Fresh Morning Lemon Willow Dew, Rose Vanilla Mango Brandy Sarsaparilla Punch, and Sun-Kissed Overripe Fairy-Tongued Deep-Fried Peach. But I'm still hoping for that candle so artfully scented that I don’t stop noticing the aroma after twenty seconds. Consequently I forget that it's burning at all, making me wonder if I should really ever be left at home alone. Because I frequently find, twelve hours after lighting it, a still-smoldering tiny metal disk that was once attached to my elusive friend, the wick. And whatever I had jerry-rigged as a candle holder – usually a sacrificial saucer of sorts – will never, even if it were incinerated – be totally free of wax particles again.

Admittedly, candles do cast a gorgeous glow, create a welcoming ambience, and come in every shape from puppies to sports equipment to banjo-playing gargoyles riding Willard Scott. And I know for a fact there couldn't be anything easier to re-gift than a candle, because I've done it so many times. Here's what I and everyone else is saying when they do that: "I picked this candle up for you at the last minute in the drugstore checkout line. I really have no imagination and don't want to spend much. I don’t even really know you, or why anybody gives anyone else a gift, ever."

Yet candles are just plain addictive. I still can't pass up bringing home a well-priced or unique candle, no matter how many brand new ones I already own. It seems like romantic dinners or baths (or romantic baths) are incomplete without one, two, or seventeen of them. I hate admitting that candles are reminiscent of a simpler, slower, electricity-free time when people relied on naught but the flame to light their nights, and that candles move me to use old-timey words like "naught" when I think of them. A candle still feels to me like the pièce de résistance of any setting, despite my wanting to take a machete to it and every one of its nothing-but-trouble friends, even as I tenderly light it.

I guess I'll just have to press on with my wick-digging, wax-smothering, soot-releasing, fire-starting, flesh-destroying, candle-infested days. It's a love-hate relationship I'd rather just give up, but unfortunately nothing holds a candle to it.