Youngest informed us a few months ago that she would not feel safe unless she could sleep with her nightlight. Recently, she has made sure it is plugged in and charging before we begin our before-bed reading, so that she can bring it to bed with her like a stuffed animal. (It is, in fact, the closest thing to a stuffed animal I can remember her bringing to bed. From an early age she spurned all furry things offered to her at night and demanded a book. Or twelve. But that’s maybe another story.) Her nightlight is a special light—a Christmas gift from Oldest one year. It has personality. It glows red. And you can bring it to bed with you.
The idea grips me—the possibility of taking light to bed with you. I have not forgotten the difference one dim bulb can make in a dark room, the way it softens the edges of night, melts away the threat of the unfamiliar, of danger. How much better if you can hold that light in your hands.
I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but it has always seemed to me that my children sleep in character. Oldest sleeps calm and wise and sweet. Middle sleeps noble and graceful with a quiet, dramatic streak. Youngest sleeps warm and intense, often with her head thrown back. If we hear footsteps in the hall at night it is usually her, and it’s hard to predict where she will end up. A few nights ago Husband and I were slow to investigate the sounds coming from upstairs, but it didn’t matter, soon she came down to us—charged past us and around the dining room table to the spot where she eats, sat down, laid her head in her arms on the table and closed her eyes.
Sometimes her light travels with her during the night. I woke up one recent morning to evidence of one of her visits.
Many nights she comes to our bed. Sometimes because of a bad dream, although she usually will not talk about it because she does not want to frighten me. It is enough to be held close for a while. We both drift off, and at some point I am awakened by the pain in my arm, stretched immobile under her head. I ease her out of bed. “It’s time to go to your own bed.” I guide her to her room, into her bed, help pull up the covers as she lies down. I pray—thankfulness for her sweet, warm, spirited self, for our family, for the goodness in our lives; I pray for peaceful sleep, for rest in general.
“Good night, sweet girl. I love you.”
“Mommy, give me something to think about.”
When she is alone again in bed the bad dreams threaten to return. I have told her in the past that she needs to fill her head with other things—so wonderful there is no room for the bad dreams. I conjure up something—a chocolate-filled swimming pool, a field full of flowers-that-are-actually-jewels. I don’t always remember, later, the things I come up with. What I do remember is that always, in the middle of the night, I resolve to love better. The resolution comes simply, but I ache with it. It is light around me, around us all. Everything else melts away.
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