When I was a child the dark changed everything. After the bedtime story was read, the prayers said, the sheets tucked in, the kisses dispensed and the light turned out, my previously safe world morphed into a scary new land that teemed with danger. My bedroom closet, which I spent countless hours reading in during the day, suddenly oozed mythological creatures that breathed fire. My bed, while safe on top, underneath housed countless trolls and bogey men who were lying in wait for me to carelessly extend a hand or foot into their realm.
I would fall asleep reluctantly, dreading the dream that might waken me in the wee hours of the morning because my parents’ bedroom and all that would save me required getting out of my oasis of safety, chancing those monsters under my bed, and crossing in front of a window on the landing that certainly had the power to snatch me away forever.
I so vividly remember the terrors of the night.
Things definitely did go bump after dark.
And then I grew up.
At some point in my high school years I discovered that life lived at night was magical. Something happened when the sun went down. Emotions were stronger, words were more easily said, life was experienced in a different realm. Darkness brought not danger, but a cocoon of safety. Once I had children it also brought a peace that can only be felt when all the little people you’ve brought into the world are sleeping peacefully and you have the time to breathe.
A few years ago I started walking at night. I live on a military base so I feel safe doing that and I’ve found that the same streets I walk during the day are completely different in the dark. The moon shines, the branches of the trees rustle gently, the roads are empty and my feet wander over the streets I’ve come to know so well in the daylight, but which become something entirely different when the sun goes down.
I often admire this gazebo during the day but I adore it at night. The blackness of night obliterates the vast parade grounds and the buildings and homes that surround it during the day. Only the lit American flags hold detail and the only sound in this place during the night is from the flags flying in the breeze. At ten o’clock the loudspeakers play “Taps” and the haunting notes of that sad song echo through the neighborhood and surround the gazebo, reminding me of what my life has been about for the past thirty-five years and causing me, a well-seasoned military spouse, to stop and be thankful for the patriots who have gone before me, on this very field. The night demands that I take nothing for granted.
I sit for a few moments on these benches in the middle of this gazebo and I listen to the notes of the song, hearing the words in my head…..
“Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.”
If only I could reach back to my childhood self and calm the irrational fears of that little girl. “Most monsters are only imagined. There are wonderful things to experience in this world after dark. When the demons do show up there’s this amazing thing called faith that keeps them at bay.”
Prayer quiets the things that go bump in the night, even when it gets really scary and really frightening. You just have to believe and trust.
Otherwise, the only choice you have is to make sure your hands and feet don’t stray off the edges of your bed….
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