The first time we met, I was 6 and had the great fortune to see bits and pieces of The Omega Man while hiding, unbeknownst to my dad, behind his chair. Knowing what I know now, I should have been afraid of Charlton Heston’s providing the sole path to the human race’s ultimate salvation. But I was little, and the white-haired, chanting crazies in long black robes and aviator sunglasses were what actually scared the poop out of me. By the time one of them was set on fire and sent screaming through an abandoned concert stadium, I had had enough. I crept back down the hallway to my room and, in a shaking voice, told all of my stuffed animals about the atrocity I had witnessed. We huddled, petrified, under the covers, certain that one of those horrid creatures would appear at the window any moment, scratching at the glass and demanding to be let in.
I don’t remember how it happened, but you came into my life the next night. When you poured your soothing light across my room, I was less afraid. Like all kids, I knew that total darkness gave all kinds of horribleness free reign, but even a partially-lighted room would provide safety. It was you, Closet Light, who showed me that the figure in the corner was not, in fact, a one-legged troll who loved to munch on the eyeballs of little children but only my clothes hamper. It was you, dear beacon, who bestowed upon me the sweet dreams my parents whispered about as they tucked me in.
I’m so glad to see you now in Evie’s room, although I do feel guilty for letting her watch James and the Giant Peach, which scared the poop out of her. After that terrifying experience, her ladybug nightlight no longer afforded the protection Evie needed to sleep peacefully. And there were even a few nightmares, I’m afraid. So, I introduced her to you, and now all is well.
I remember distinctly what it was like to be afraid of the dark. It’s especially unsettling to wake up in the middle of the night after everyone’s gone to bed. The house is empty of the soothing drone of the TV in the den or the reassuring sounds of your parents moving around. The stories they read to you and the hugs and kisses they gave you only hours earlier are now but a distant memory. Now there’s only the dark. And the quiet. So, you huddle under the blankets, petrified you’ll accidentally let a limb slip over the edge of the bed and undecided whether you should sleep facing the door or the wall. If you turn towards the door, you’ll see the monster coming for you, but at least you’ll see it coming. If you sleep facing the wall, you won’t see it coming, but if you’re gonna die at its bony hands anyway, why add insult to injury? So many questions to ponder in the dead of night, alone and afraid. And…wait. What was that noise?
Because of you, Closet Light, at least I know little Evie is not alone if she wakes up in the middle of the night. She has a friend to comfort her and to scare away the monsters. I leave you on all night, just for this purpose. So she won’t be scared.
Shine on, Closet Light. And thank you for making another generation of my over-reactive, over-imaginative family a little less scared of the dark.