Namine has a couple different lights she can have on at night. One is her night light; I don’t remember if it has Ariel or if it’s a different Disney princess. The other is what she calls her moon; given to us by a coworker of mine, it hangs from her ceiling, projecting light in the shape of moons and stars on the ceiling and walls. Namine almost always opts to have at least one of these on, as her sleep is at times beset by unpleasant dreams. Not often, I wouldn’t say, but often enough that she has expressed the desire to not dream at all.
It’s not that Namine has unrealistic dreams. No, on the contrary, her dreams are often the stuff of her life: surgery, doctors, and pain. Most of all, she dreams of that most nebulous thing: fear itself. She had no words, when she was younger, to describe the horror of her nightmares, so she called them what her mind translated: “hippo monsters.” It turned out that these hippo monsters were in fact doctors in scrubs, wearing the masks over their faces. The square blue of the mask covering their mouths and noses does not look unlike the simple caricature of a hippo’s face.
Namine does not often spend her waking time thinking about what she is afraid of. No, she instead thinks about good things: what she likes, what she loves; playing, reading, climbing, swinging; singing, dancing. But in preparation of the nighttime, she often requires a light. A light to remind her that she is not alone; that Mama and Haha are awake and vigilant; that we are watching our for her. In short, that she may sleep soundly. That she may dream good dreams, if she dreams at all.
So it is no small thing, then, that Namine told me tonight that she needed no light left on for her. I asked her which light she preferred tonight, her night light or moon. “I don’t need any light tonight, Haha,” she told me. “I am not afraid of the dark. I can sleep in the dark, and I will have good dreams tonight.”
It is never easy to move past fear. There are good days, and there are bad days. But today – rather, tonight – was good. And for a night, a little girl has looked fearlessly into the dark. For now, only a single night, but there are more like it to come.