We were talking, my small-panted grandchildren and I, about the dark. Was I, Are you, Button Granny, frightened of the dark? I was having a ying tong at the time (ying tong piddle etc) and she, the smallest pants, burst in, quite the thing with this fairly big question. Well, I said, thinking, or looking like I was…….I used to when I was little, and then, later, when I was bigger than little, yes I did. Why? she asked.
Good question. They ‘why’ bit always throws me unless it’s obvious, such as Why did you not put your fingers in the fire Button Granny? I thought more, albeit in a slightly compromised state (I can still think at such times, being a woman) and said, Well because I know the dark now.
How? she continued. Oh dear. Well, I said (what would we do without that wonderful word of delay?) I think that I know that, that……there is nothing to frighten me in the dark anymore. Oh, she said, and dashed off to complete her Angry Cabbages Puzzle, which, by the way, I do wonder at. If cabbages are angry in her little mind, then what hope is there? I had, earlier, read both herself and her bigger brother a story about an Elephant and a Bad Baby, who, together, stole two pies, two pork chops, with no thought for the poor pig, nor, I might add, the butcher, two ice creams, two buns and two apples, so I guess Angry Cabbages are small fry by comparison. I am consoled greatly to know that their parents think the book ‘dickerless’ too.
The dark is just the other side of the light. I remember my lovely dad saying just that, as I shook him awake, about yay high, my little heart beating like mad, my feet light and running all the way to his side of the marital bed. He rose and guided me to the bathroom, his voice soothing, regardless of his broken sleep, sleep he badly needed for his busy working day, yet to dawn, and laid a towel on the edge of the bath. He turned on the taps to run tepid water into the tub and then lifted me onto the towel so that my feet dipped into the soothing water. He talked about this and about that whilst I calmed, and then, softly dried my feet and lifted me back to bed with a gentle voice saying gentling things. I don’t know if he stayed till my eyes grew heavy, but I do know that I never saw him leave. He never asked me to tell him of my fears, just seem to understand them and then he washed them away. I thank him for that, although he is now long gone, a Marine Commando, another dad who never talked about the war he lived through, at least, not the dreadful bits.
As a teenager I was still afraid. Not outside, bizarrely, but within the walls of a house. Once, when invited at stay with a schoolfriend, the daughter of a pig farmer, for the night. I lay in the guest room, weighed down with warm bedding and I just knew there were rats in the room. I said to myself, Don’t be Dickerless, but the rat-knowing part of me stayed resolute. Then, as I began to doze off from complete exhaustion, the house around me quiet (which meant the parents were in bed too…..) a rat ran over my blankets. I saw it and I felt it. I spent the night in the cupboard and cried so much at breakfast that my poor mother had to come and collect me, effusive with apologies and, no doubt, embarassed for ever and a day. But I Saw the rat! I wailed. Uh-huh, she said.
The dark is something personal. To each one of us. Maybe it isn’t the night sort of dark, although it can be, but perhaps the inside dark stepping out. A fear of something or someone. Doubts can bring the dark. Crime on television just before bed can continue to play out and develop in our dreams.
Dark is the other side of light. As adults, sentient adults, we know this. But knowing something and it settling into our bones can be a universe, a lifetime apart. I know that when I am troubled, my dreams bring more dark than light. I have downloaded a Sleep App on my android phone (get me) by someone with the most boring voice I have ever heard, whose control over the english language would have sent my english teacher, Miss Machoolish into one of her dizzy spells, and it works, the boredom treatment, never mind the bright lights, the secret garden or any of the stuff he drones on about. I just want out, so I fall asleep.
Now, I love the dark. I know that, inside it, there is calm and peace. I also know that night creatures move at such times, but they don’t want me, they want mice or wandering birds, and, although I may, indeed be a wandering bird, I am way too big for their taste. I sincerely believe that television, for all its great dramas has bigged up the darkness with fear and we believe it. Although I do acknowledge that, living on an island, my dark is just dark with not much inside it to worry any of us, I still think fear as food is something we don’t need. We spend too much time, me included, looking at how things might go wrong. Why should that out-balance them going right? Perhaps more looking at the light in our lives would gentle the dark in us.
Dark is dark. Light is light. It is enough.