Years and years ago, there used to be “missions” that would come to the parishes where I grew up. Visiting priests, mostly, and sometimes nuns, would spend a week or so in the parish. Tables would be set up in the church-school vestibule, displaying rosaries, prayer books, religious jewelry, and statues.
My parents gave me a dollar to buy what I wanted. I chose a small, tan-colored plastic statue of the Blessed Virgin and a small silver ring with a metal silhouette of the Blessed Virgin embedded in a mother-of-pearl oval, surrounded by blue rhinestones.
I kept the statue on my dresser, atop a small mirror. One year I sewed a veil for it made from netting with a beaded circular “crown.”
One day, my parents went out shopping and took my siblings with them. I got to say home alone. I liked that kind of time for myself, even at the age of ten. While they were out, I had the bright idea of taking a skinny, twisted blue and white birthday candle from the kitchen drawer. I placed it next to my Blessed Virgin statue (but I don’t remember what I placed the candle on). I lit it – no small feat for me, a young girl who was actually afraid to light a match from the matchbook. But, I thought, the Holy Ghost was with me, so what could go wrong?
The candle flickered next to the Blessed Virgin, and I went across the hall to the bathroom to flush the match down the toilet. I went back into my bedroom, and the Blessed Virgin was on fire!
I grabbed the statue at the base and ran back into the bathroom, and ran water over it in the sink. Flames doused, and now I had to get rid of the smell and the evidence before anyone came home.
I cranked open the bathroom window, and then opened up the bedroom windows. When the Blessed Virgin cooled down, I wrapped her in eight sheets of Kleenix and placed the “mummy” in an empty shoebox, then placed that on the closet floor with my shoes on top of it.
By the time everyone came home, I closed all the windows and there was no smell of burnt plastic.
About a week later, my Ma asked me where my statue was. I told her I packed it away for the time being. No big deal. It was only about ten years ago that I told my parents what I really did with the statue. They were speechless. (I would be, too. Too late to spank me.)
I kept the burnt up Blessed Virgin for years. In fact, I had it until the early 1980s, when I decided I didn’t need to have it as a reminder of my experiment with candles and flames.
One day, about two weeks ago, I thought again about that episode. On a whim, I did an Internet research, and found someone who was selling the exact type of statue I had: Made in Hong Kong, tan-colored plastic with gold painted trim, and in perfect condition.
It came in the mail yesterday. Funny, it seems so much smaller than what I remember. Yet, I like it and it’s exactly the same as what my original was.
Well, except there is no blackened and melted right side on this one. And I don’t have the silver and mother-of-pearl ring anymore. That could be a greater challenge to find an exact replacement.
©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.