Some kids have teddy bears. Others have blankets, dolls, or stuffed animals they fall asleep with.
I had something a bit different: a light.
My window faced a hill. And on that hill was a lone streetlamp, shining down on the road beneath it. Now, I knew that it was just some normal, boring old road. But in the minutes between sleep and wake, where my mind grew fuzzy and dreams started to thread into my consciousness, I imagined it as something more.
The streetlamp in Narnia, against falling snow. The lights of a mermaid colony, shimmering through ocean depths. The glow of a fairy, sitting on a rose petal in a deep forest.
But, one night –
The light was off.
“Mommy! Daddy!” I yelled down the hall, stomping my little feet across the carpet. “The light is gone!”
“What, your night-light?” Dad asked, setting his book on the couch. Mom was slumped on the other side, snoring lightly.
“Not that light! The light up on the hill!”
He followed me back into my bedroom, where I pointed wildly out the window. Through the sheer curtains, there was pitch black beyond. “Why is it gone, Daddy?”
“I don’t know why, Caroline,” he said, scooping me back into bed. “Maybe the lightbulb is out. Remember a week ago, when Mommy changed the lightbulb in the kitchen? Sometimes that happens to lights, and they need to be fixed.”
After another bedtime story, I drifted off into sleep. And when I woke up a few hours later, in the middle of the night –
The light was back on.
I smiled, snuggled against my pillow, and closed my eyes.
But the next night, the light was out again. And the next, and the next. I grew crankier, my sleep got worse. My parents, for the most part, ignored it.
But then something wonderful happened.
On Tuesday night, Mom had to go to the cell phone store over the hill. “Mommy! Let me come!” I begged, clawing at her shirt. “Please?”
“It’s almost your bedtime,” Mom said, shooting a look at Dad. He shrugged.
“Okay, you can come. But then you go right into bed, okay?”
And soon, we were driving up that familiar road, towards the streetlamp. I wanted to see what was wrong with it – was the lightbulb busted? Or some wires frayed? Then, I thought in my little kid brain, I could tell Mom how to fix it.
As we rounded the bend, though, I was in for a surprise.
The streetlamp was on.
Shining brightly like a beacon, its light glistening over the wet road. “It’s on, it’s on!” I cried, so loudly that the windows rattled. “See, Mommy?”
“Yes, honey,” she said, distractedly.
And it was still on when we made our way back. I was so excited, I was jumping up and down in my seat. Narnia, mermaids, and fairies all came rushing back into my head. When we got home, I ran down the hall, jumped into bed, and turned to the window.
It was out.
I shot out of bed. How? I thought. We just saw it five minutes ago! It was on! Shining bright!
I ran over to the window. I grabbed a fistful of curtain and yanked it back. Where is it? I thought, glancing around wildly. Ithas to be here!
My eyes adjusted to the darkness.
Shadows faded into view. Gray against black, bulky and large.
Not the shape of a road and trees.
I pulled the curtain further, curious now.
And then I leapt back.
Two hands, cupped against the window.
Attached to the hulking shadow of a man.
No, there was nothing wrong with the streetlamp – nothing at all.
He was just blocking its light.