I saw the light, I saw the light, no more darkness, no more night
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight, praise the Lord, I saw the light.
Hank Williams wrote this popular hymn in 1947, inspired by his mother’s announcement that the band was approaching Montgomery, Alabama, as she drove them home after a concert. Williams had been drunkenly sleeping in the backseat and roused when his mother told them, “I just saw the light.”
While the song was not his most successful, it so ironically describes his hopeful struggle against the demons that kept him in an addictive relationship with alcohol and painkillers that the film about his life is titled after it. Hank lost his battle at the young age of 29 when his consumption finally caused his heart to fail.
It is tragic to imagine that he could write so eloquently and joyfully of redemption and yet he never quite captured that light in his own darkness. He knew what it felt like, but he was never able to hang on to it.
This is a very deep and dark beginning to what I intend to be a fairly light topic (pun intended and it won’t be the last, sorry) but I promise the point will shine through, if you will let me explain.
Last week while my daughter was finishing her winter break, a second lamp in our living room decided to quit. The first one had been out for several months and was stashed away awaiting repair. I could do without the one, but when the second went out the darkness was too much to bear.
I needed a way to bring back the light, and quick.
I took to Facebook, asking friends if they could figure out what would cause these two lamps, purchased from the same company at the same time about 10 years ago, to go out so close to each other. I’ve somehow avoided having a lamp go out before, and had no idea what to do.
Of course, the first responses from my snarkiest friends were, “Is it the bulbs?” Hardy, har, har, I thought, then came back with a clever quip, “I may be blonde but I’m not stupid! Of course it’s not the bulbs!”
Then more productive responses came in, explaining that the switches can go out pretty easily and a quick trip to a hardware store and a simple surgery could fix them right up. While I felt up to the task, the other advice I received quickly became my light bulb moment. I should take them to Dan’s Lamp House!
I’ve always intended to stop at this quirky little shop on the side of Shorter Avenue, but never have. This is going to sound crazy, but I’ve always assumed that a treasure I have long desired was waiting for me there. Why on earth haven’t I ever taken the time to stop and claim my prize?
When I was a kid, my grandparents, Daddy Jack and Mama Edith, had a lamp that sat between their recliners and I’ve always wished to find one like it and I’ve always pictured that it was waiting for me on the shelves of Dan’s Lamp House. I mean, every other kind of lamp you could imagine is on display in the windows as you drive by, so I was certain that the one I desired was there, just waiting for me to show up.
The lamp had a classic arts and crafts style wood base and two parchment paper shades, one inside the other, with the crowning jewel of a red glass marble like a cherry on top. That red glass glowed so beautifully when the lamp was on and it felt to me like pure magic lived between their thrones. Daddy Jack remarried after Mama Edith died and the lamp somehow slipped away, but I’ve always wished that I had ended up with it, and so I search.
Isn’t it weird how we can get something in our mind: a desire, a problem, a belief, and allow it to live there without even trying to shed light on its resolution?
When my friends started talking about what a great guy Dan Toles was, how helpful and reasonable he was, and how interesting the store was, I was really embarrassed that the store had lived in my head for so long without a visit.
When I took the lamps by his shop, everything my friends described came true. He immediately determined the problem and fixed the one that needed it while I waited, and I found a needed new shade for it, too. Much to my blonde embarrassment, it turns out that the second really was just a problem with the bulb. I had put in a new one that lasted for only a day and a half before giving up the ghost, so I assumed the lamp had killed it.
As Dan worked, we chatted about his 40 years in business and how he enjoyed sticking at it, even though it is uncomfortably similar to working. I strolled the shelves, seeking the magic red ball I was sure I’d find but I didn’t, sadly. I described the lamp to him and he was sure I would find it and promised to fix it up for me when I do. You better believe that when it appears I will take it straight to Dan so he can bring it back to light.
How does this all tie back to Hank? Of course, that song got stuck in my brain and I realized that it was a reminder to act on our enlightened moments. Don’t be like Hank. He saw the light but let the demons prevail, and the world has been a darker place without him.