When I was a child, sometimes my grandmother would take me to the house of her cousin. This cousin lived in a huge, old box of a house in the forest, about 20 miles from our house. I remember thinking that her house was magical. She had many more rooms and floors than our house. Back stairwells, creaking floors, nooks, and attics full of unknowns. There was a collection of antique dolls in a spare room upstairs - beautiful, but kind of odd and too fragile to play with. There was a garden outside with trees, flowers, a wooden swing for two, and some strange paths with little wooden and stone creatures along them, like elves or fairies or toadstools. I can't tell now if it really happened or if it was something enchanting I read in one of my books about witches, lions and lost little girls. Her house had an unusual smell - some kind of rarified baking from a different part of Norway than my grandmother was from. Cardamon, orange peel and butter. Tea and coffee were served on trays of fine and mismatched china. I remember my mother pointing out to me that the cousin's Christmas tree had real candles on it. This is followed by a vague memory of an uncle joking that their place was a major fire hazard. The most exotic thing about her house, though, was her candle collection. She had two large, floor-to-ceiling cupboards filled with all kinds of wax candles. Animal shapes, human figures, architecture, words, fruits and flowers, in the most pale, creamy colors imaginable. It was her prize collection. Not one of them had ever been used.

I can't think of this without also remembering a story about how this cousin and her family went away on a holiday during the winter and had the neighbors take care of her house. Apparently it was a very cold winter, and the neighbors had turned up the heat in the house so high that all of the candles melted.


A space for some of the things I was informed by and considered including in this project, but didn't.