When my mother passed away in 1994, I was her only survivor and inherited everything she owned. Among her things was this tiny little replica of a kerosene lamp. I always thought it had been something I had as a child because I remember seeing it when I was little. However, I recently learned what it really is from one of my first cousins. The story behind it makes it a treasure.
My maternal grandmother died when my mother was fourteen years old, leaving behind six living children and a son she’d lost when he was three years old. He died three years before her own death. The family had been poor and each child was only given one gift on Christmas each year. They all had to work hard in the farm fields and my mother remembered carrying a lamp when she went with her only living brother at five o’clock in the morning to milk the cows. She carried a lamp because they didn’t own a lantern.
My grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Murphy Lee, died at age thirty-seven from measles. In addition, she had complications from tuberculosis she’d suffered with for three years. Grandpa used to walk his youngest daughter by his second wife down the road to the store often and he told her stories about what a good mother Lizzie was and how hard it had been for her to be so ill and tend to their children. He also said she was part Cherokee. They’d been married twenty years when she died, having been married when she was seventeen years old.
As I only recently learned, this little light of mine was the very last Christmas gift my mother received from her own mother five months before Lizzie died. Each one of the children received one as their gift that year. The others have all been broken or lost over the years. Mine is the only one surviving and it is now ninety-one years old. What stories this little light could tell. It’s been around through six generations now. Let it shine.