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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Glow in the Dark

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

The first years living in our new home, one of my daughters decided she wanted glow in the dark stars on her bedroom ceiling. For some reason, we complied, even knowing that the uneven surface of what is now known to be asbestos would make a poor surface for adhesion and that the stars would, in all likelihood, slowly surrender to gravity.

Thirty-three years later, those stars are still tenaciously clinging to the ceiling, never really noticeable in the day time. In fact, since it is mostly light when I enter the room, I generally never consider them.

But in these dark days of winter when the sun is down by five and doesn’t make a reappearance until seven the next morning, I sometimes find myself carefully picking my way through the dark in her old room where my office now resides, leaving the light off so as not to disturb my husband in the next room.

And so it was this morning as I carefully shuffled to my dresser. Pulling out the drawer, my eyes were drawn up to the ceiling, where a field of dull lime green stars spread across the asbestos sky. As I stared, caught off guard by their presence, I thought about that little girl whose head had lain on a pillow… a girl who perhaps found respite from the dark…a girl who fell asleep dreaming of stars.

That little girl is a mother now, to three children whose rooms are ornamented with every possible layer of magic. Nooks and crannies have soft, stuffed creatures waiting for revelation. Wispy white nets are draped from impossible places, and they sleep under their own star-soaked skies.

And her childhood stars? From her old room, they now beckon me, both mother and grandmother waiting on the threshold of a seventh decade.

Oh, the pull of those stars. I stare and wonder into what dreams they invite me. My own young girl’s heart has been strangely awakened in this pandemic time. All routine has been ripped away, and in the quiet and lack of chaos, burning questions have emerged. Who am I if my identities have been stripped away in deference to the science of protection? What long silent voices clamber for attention if the sounds of children and grandchildren are stilled? What dreams are left unfulfilled? Unremembered?

This time of forced solitude confronts every aspect of self that had been developed to cope with the stresses and joys of what passes for modern life. My heart had been dulled by the requirements of a filled calendar, and my soul, I now realize, has been asleep.

In the painful reawakening, in the renewed listening, the whispers have become more insistent now, and, as with any new venture, they swirl in confusion and demand clarity. Every day is a new permutation of what “now” should look like. Every day, the formulas I messily scrawled across the board to make sense of my world the day before have been erased by an unseen hand. And I must begin again where I am.

The future is unseeable and unknowable. The answers are elusive. But the stars? The stars remain a certainty, with fixed positions that only seem to change as our perspective shifts.

In these dark times, perhaps I need to remember the lessons of glow in the dark stars: how their presence is always there, though unnoticed in the light of day…how their soft light is a constant, although an intention to look up is needed…how their staying power is tested and proven.

But perhaps, even more, I need to seek companionship with my own young girl within, who once stared at soft shapes in a pine ceiling at night and felt a strange pull towards the unknown… a girl who listened to Tchaikovsky and conducted symphony orchestras…a girl who fell asleep dreaming of adventure and freedom.

That little girl within, long hidden, long unattended to, is still looking up at her own dim shapes etched in wood. And perhaps now is the time for me to reclaim her night sky and name it as my own


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