For his third birthday, I bought my honorary nephew The Dark, Lemony Snicket’s newest book for children. Before the purchase, one of my dearest friends and I stood by the children’s book island in the middle of the Strand, a famous New York city bookstore. Though the city, with its ever lively pace, still moved around us as shoppers and tourists, we were suspended in the quiet, honest loveliness of the story. Huddled over the book’s crisp, yet textured, drawings of oranges, ambers, blues, and blacks.
We took turns reading each page out loud to one another. The story went something like this: Laszlo was afraid of the Dark, but that was okay because the Dark, who lived in the basement, stayed out of Laszlo’s room. But one night, when his night light burned out, the Dark visited him. This encounter taught Laszlo that: “…without the Dark, everything would be light, and you would never know if you needed a light bulb.”
By the story’s end and with our shoulders touching, my friend and I were both quietly crying.
After reading a few more children’s books to each other, we wandered around the store’s remaining floors (Three to be exact). I suppose the experience was impressive, but my senses dulled towards the towers of books that towered above us. My mind was still with Laszlo, slowly re-feeling its way through his encounter with the Dark. Yes, the book was for my nephew, but the more I thought about it, the story was also for me.
I am not a young child, afraid of the dark in my bedroom—that doesn’t mean my adult life has not had its share of darkness. These past five years have put me in places and experiences where I have seen (with much surprise and sadness) how pain, fear, anger, and loss can wind around a person, hiding them from themselves and disordering and dissembling every important relationship they have. It’s horrible to watch. It’s even more horrible to be on the receiving end of its desperate grip.
God, “…without the Dark, everything would be light, and you would never know if you needed a light bulb,” is such a powerful line for me. When the Dark visited me, its presence hurt. But, its presence also tuned my senses to quickly see and deeply experience life’s blessings and joys—proverbial light bulbs—whenever they enlightened and enlivened my messy little bundle of experience and truth.
Apparently, The Dark helps my honorary nephew fall asleep. That’s what his mother told me yesterday. This knowledge makes me smile. We all have little stories that we tell ourselves, to make us strong, to make us brave, to help us not be afraid of the dark. I’m glad The Dark is such a story for him. And, I hope its wisdom will continue to walk with him and to strengthen him for the rest of his life.