I go to bed long after everyone else, and the last thing I make sure to do is look in on my girls. Last night — this morning, really — I found SD sleeping with the light on. It’s confusing, jarring even, to be standing over her in a brightly lit room this way. But I understand.
I’ve written before about SD being my Mini-Me, and this is one of the reasons. We share an imagination that’s a great, fun thing. Except when it’s not, like in the middle of the night and you’re little.
In January 2015, an inmate walked away from the local police, and for most of that day no one knew where he’d gotten to. (Out of town, it turns out.) We kept our doors locked and our eyes peeled in case we spotted him. Somebody — I don’t remember who — explained to SD that the escapee was a “bad guy.” Since that day, she’s been obsessed with bad guys. I recently filled in some of the ridiculous particulars of this story for SD: the escapee ran away after slipping off his shoes and pants. Plus, he ran away. I got her laughing at the very-not-scary image of a shoeless, bare-legged loser fleeing the police. But that just means she’s no longer scared of that one particular bad guy. And there she was, sleeping with the light on.
When I was little, my bedroom had a walk-in closet with a sliding door. From about her age until somewhere in my teens, I slept with the closet light on and the door wide open. I was terrified for years that someone like Dracula would put a ladder against our house and climb up through my second-floor window and into my room. One night, half-asleep, I swear I saw his spatted dress shoe swing over the window sill. For a while I wondered if I was the Lindbergh baby reincarnated.
Anyway, at some point, I don’t remember when, the absence of light began to seem more full of magic than fear. My most recent album is even called Confessions of a Nyctophiliac. A nyctophiliac is someone who loves the dark.
Not that my imagination is no longer a pain in the butt at times. A couple of years back, on a plane, I suddenly realized: Just because you can imagine something scary doesn’t mean it will happen. So obvious, but a revelation to me. I repeat it to myself when something that could happen stops me in my tracks. In the last few weeks I’ve been sharing it with SD in hopes that it can comfort her, too. I think it will over time. Her imagination is a wonderful gift. It just needs some training. Mine still does.
For now, though, I’ll just let her keep sleeping with the light on. (Doc has also come across some new night lights that look super-cool.) Clearly the brightness isn’t keeping SD awake, and she feels safer. I remember.
I quietly closed the door to her brightly lit room and made my way back out into the comforting dark.