“Mommy, is the moon on fire, like the sun?”
That’s my middle daughter, talking. “Nope. It’s just a big rock.”
We’re on the way to the bathroom, as we always are at bedtime. We live in a yurt with no indoor plumbing, so our bathroom is outside.
“How is it lit up, then?”
“Umm…” Her eyes are fixed up on the sky, but I am craning my neck over her squishy purple coat, picking my way carefully in big boots down frozen steps. “It isn’t really. It’s just making a reflection, like a mirror. It reflects the light of the sun.”
“But the sun is gone.”
I set her down. “Oh, no, honey. The sun isn’t gone. It’s just around on the other side. We can’t see the sun right now, but the moon can.”
She goes inside our little shack of an outdoor bathroom, which has a sliver moon carved into the door. I shine my flashlight through the crescent and look up at the the real thing, feeling suddenly a rush of peace from my own words, like I just stumbled into something warm.
The moon can see the sun.
I struggle in the winter months. Every year, when the dark is dark, I struggle. Mostly I remember my mother, who died when I was 25 years old, but was distant from me years before that. For reasons of custody arrangements and reasons of stubborn will and reasons of emotional combat, from the age of eight I never spent another Christmas with my mother.
I miss her like a dog.
Some people say that grief gets easier as you get older. I’m not sure that’s true. I think it might get worse.
My daughter steps out into the moonlight, smiling at me. I carry her to her bed, and then I lie down in my own bed, in the winter darkness, which is almost the pure, outdoor darkness, because our yurt doesn’t have electricity any more than it has an indoor bathroom. I lie there in my bed under my dark, round roof, and I feel the line that is drawn between the moon and the sun, like a thread. I feel how the sun and the moon are moving, and it’s like a fabric of light is being woven over me. It feels like a blanket.
I remember all the connections between all the things, what in our house we call “our true things.” These are the sky and the clouds and the trees and the wind and the stars, and I always tell my kids if they feel afraid in the dark they need to remember their true things. Because the love is always more true than the fear.
I struggle at the holidays. And of course I know I’m not the only one. For some of us the holidays are just hard. The loss is deeper than the joy. The memories aren’t happy ones. The whole holiday construct isn’t helpful. I’m a lousy cook and I can’t afford to buy presents and I don’t have a home that feels like coming home at the holidays. All this can be really scary.
I try to remember my true things.
The stars in the sky, and one star shining hope…
The lines of light drawn through darkness.
A child who doesn’t stop asking questions
and another child who never quite grew up.
The dawn that comes every day, even when you don’t believe in it.
And the turning of the seasons that comes just in time…
…just when you think you’re not going to make it.
When my daughter wakes up again, in the dark that is almost the pure, outdoor darkness, telling me that she is having a bad dream and she doesn’t want to go back to sleep, I will tell her again. “Remember? The moon can see the sun. That’s a good reason not to be afraid.”
She will smile, and turn her head into her pillow.
This post was originally presented at A Deeper Story. I’m still migrating my pieces home. Enjoy!