Our lamps tell stories

Published February 2, 2023

By Lib Campbell

I love light. I have twinkle lights all over the yard and keep lights burning inside and outside most of the time. When I look around at the lamps we have, I realize they tell a story of the life Tom and I have lived together for nearly 58 years.
The first lamp of our marriage was an oak candle lamp that sat on the bedside table in our first home. It lit many a conversation in bedrooms from Wilson to Raleigh. For the past 30 years, it has sat on a table on the front porch of our river house. She has weathered hurricanes and nor’easters and gone through several lamp shades. She needs a little tender loving care right now, but she waits in the garage for her next night on.
Inside the back door there is a little table on which sits on antique emerald green pottery lamp that belonged to Tom’s Grandmother Harris. She did not have many treasures, but she had a living room she was proud of. She was a mighty mite who loved her little home and the small yard where she tended her iris and azaleas. When she moved to our house at the river, the lamp came with her. The green lamp keeps her memory alive in our home.
My Grandmother Aggie’s red cranberry glass lamp sits on my piano, lighting the keyboard and pages of music. I think of how it sat on her piano a long time ago. I remember how her home was filled with music, singing and laughter beyond some of the heartache she lived. 
Our house is filled with Hattie Batts floor lamps, black wrought iron wired candle stands. We must have seven of them scattered through our rooms. I remember buying the first one as a new bride. Hattie and Joe Batts owned Batts Lamp and Shade Antique Store on old 301 in Wilson. We didn’t have a lot of money, so most of the antiques were out of reach. But we were thrilled to buy the nineteen-dollar lamp that gave a little 18th century charm to our first home. 
There’s the big milk can lamp with a Chinese stencil in brass that sat in Mrs. Campbell’s den for all the years I knew her. Even in her smallest den at Whitaker Glen the black lamp stood watch. He sits on the credenza at our house now, lighting our dinners and warming our space. 
The estate sale lamp we bought sits on a side table in the living room. It’s an antique vase with blue and rose markings. Because it is so large, we decided to sell it when we downsized. The price we were offered for it was insultingly low, so we decided we would find a place for her to continue to shine. And we have.
In the guest room there is a pink ceramic lamp from Bulluck’s or Stuart Walston’s, or Lucinda Rackley’s. Mrs. Campbell used the lamp with the rose medallion pieces she collected for years. This lamp, like the blue and white lamp that sits in our office, are an homage to Tom’s Mother, who collected beautiful things. These lamps remind us of her love of a gracious home. 
Marie Kondo, the guru of de-cluttering magic, talks about walking through your possessions speaking thanksgiving and gratitude for each object. Some people think it’s nuts to talk to inanimate objects. Still words of gratitude uttered from the human mouth create sound that ripples out across rooms and lawns and ions of space and time to land somewhere in a heart that says, “You are welcome.” 
Life is story; everything created tells it. The story is hard when people are sick, when children suffer, when war rages. Remembering who writes the story we live into causes us to notice even the most ordinary things among us. We see the beauty, remember who has touched our lives, seeding the story in us. 
When a lamp conjures memories, a sense of well-being and thanksgiving comes over me. Others have faced suffering and pain, trouble and loss, and yet all goes on. We are part of a grand story, even with the ups and downs. The lamps shine it forward; our lives can do that too. 
Remembering the story makes people and events present for us. The story informs our decision-making and choices. It shapes us. When we shut down the story, the narratives of history, we turn the lights off and all goes dark. Nobody wants to live in darkness. Or do we?
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite www.avirtualchurch.com. She can be contacted at libcam05@gmail.com