They say that seven is the Age of Reason, when children begin to think for themselves and separate fact from fantasy. I remember lying in bed at that age, gazing out the vast picture window that looked down over the canyon below our house—the wide night sky opening up before me—and contemplating infinity.
I would study the blanket of stars and imagine a big white room containing them. I’d sit with that thought until a door made it’s way into the picture, and then I’d have to contain that room with an additional big white room—with God, perhaps, sitting idly by on a footstool twiddling his thumbs as he watched down upon us—and, as the rooms continued to expand on forever, I would become breathless and anxious, and cry out to my mother in the next room (the small one beyond my room, not the ones behind the stars).
She would come in and sit down on the bed next to me and ask, “What is it? Why aren’t you sleeping?”
Unable to articulate the complexity of my thoughts, I’d reply, “I’m scared.”
“What are you scared of? I’m right in the next room?” She’d say.
I couldn’t put a label on what scared me, but I knew I was scared.
“I’m just scared.”
“Well don’t worry honey. Every night, before I go to sleep, I surround the house with White Light. It protects us until we wake up.”
“White Light?! What’s White Light!?”
“It’s energy sweet heart. Loving protecting energy, and I send it around the house to keep us safe at night.”
I might have been a child of hippies, but I was growing up during the Cold War. There were still ten years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I wasn’t crazy enough to believe that energy alone was going to protect us.
“But I can’t see it,” I replied skeptically.
“It’s invisible,” She said.
This did not make me feel better.
In my mind, I envisioned this “White Light,” to be a giant protective Robot Extraordinaire. However, I wasn’t sure I wanted a big, hulking robot—one I couldn’t see, no less—roaming the halls of our house while I slept.
Thinking about this, it was obvious that my mom was in cahoots with White Light, and any ambivalence I felt toward him was likely to be used against me. Racked with disembodied fear, irrational requests ensued until we were both exhausted and cross, and then one of us finally gave up, my mom retreating back to her bed in the living room, which she shared with the cat.
I continued to gaze out at the night sky, laying very still, never sure when the damned invisible robot might pass by my bed.
It took me years before I was able to articulate my fears about White Light, and my mom and I still laugh about it when discussing scary topics.
While not yet seven, Tizzy is now waking up at night, once we’re long done with dishes and emails, and the halls are dark and quiet, and announcing that he’s scared. Our house is not large—you could see through the wall separating our bedrooms if you punched a hole through it—but, I understand that his fear is not rational. It is a disembodied fear, made up of all the uncertainties he has yet to define. His world is expanding, and he doesn’t yet know how to articulate this.
I know better to mention White Light. These days, what I offer up instead, is Night Light.