Two weeks ago, before daylight savings time ended, we began to get up for school while it was still deep night. We walked around the apartment, incandescent lamps lighting the way, unnaturally awake during what felt like midnight. Daddy would carry you downstairs to the car, like he always does, and I would turn the car on to warm it up, watching the headlights cut lines in the dense dark.
I saw you two stand there under bright starlight and silvery moonlight, daddy holding you close and pointing to the sky. You were saying, “stars and moon?” like you always do. But according to daddy, it went more like this…
“Look, Drew! There’s Earendil, sailing in his ship with the Silmaril upon his brow! Can you say “Silmaril?”
And thus you shared a nerdy, Lord of the Rings-y moment that daddy could post about online.
I don’t really get all that Tolkien stuff; Daddy is a much more committed reader of fantasy than I am, and he’s determined to make you into a nerd.
(it’s working, too—the other day you recited an entire Darth Vader speech from A New Hope, and had us both in stitches.)
Not to be outdone, I reminded Daddy that if he was referring to the Morning Star, and therefore Venus, that its name in Old Solar is Perelandra (according to CS Lewis).
I want you to read The Space Trilogy as soon as you’re old enough to understand it. Daddy wants you to read Tolkien. And we want you to spend time looking at the stars—the glowy ones stuck to your bedroom wall and the ones that prick the sky—and wonder.
Daddy and I are weirdos in a lot of ways. We used to spend hours staring out into the woods, talking about all the strange critters we thought might be out there…Bigfoot and fairies and creepy monsters that we don’t know about because we don’t need to know. We have theories about the Chupacabra and Mothman, about the Loch Ness Monster and the Boggy Creek Monster.
We don’t necessarily believe in that stuff. Certainly not the way we believe in God or even the way we believed in Santa Clause. More like…we’re fine with the idea of them because we have always been wonderers. We wonder about the world…we entertain fantastic ideas. We like to tell myths and legends. And we love to read you stories, because we want you to join us there.
I see the capacity for wonder in you, and the ability to make believe and pretend. You turned your hobby horse upside down and told your aunt you were ‘cleaning’, pretending he was a mop. You love your stuffed animals so much, they become more than toys. And your adventures! They turn everyday things into once-in-a-lifetime experiences . Like the time you got to pet a lizard at Petco, the afternoon you spent jumping on the bouncy castle, the tour guide that let you ‘drive’ the bus, the garden full of pumpkins….all these things give you that look, that excited look, and you turn back to me and Daddy as if to ask if we are seeing this too. The connection between stories and characters that you love and real life events…it gives me hope that you will have an imagination, that your inner life will be as rich as the life growing around you.
But that’s not why I think warmly of that cold morning —you and Daddy stargazing at 7 am, pointing out Venus/Perelandra/whatever LOTR thing. It’s because I suddenly remembered something that happened to me.
I guess I was about your age, because aunt Ginni was still a baby. We were on our way to school, packing up the car, and it was morning, but still so dark. Was it cold? I don’t remember.
I remember that my Dad was holding me—Pop Pop, back when he was younger and less gray, bearded like Daddy. He was pointing to the sky, to all the pinpoints of light in the big Texas firmament. “And that’s the morning star,” he said.
I remember I started singing a song I’d heard on the radio…I think it’s a Michael W. Smith song. It’s about the second coming, and some of the lyrics are, “I am sure there will be a day/but it will not be like the nations say….joy will rise/like the Morning Star.”
Like you, I had a great ear for song lyrics (it freaked my mom out when she realized I knew all the verses to ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ at two), and those words connected with that picture—of my father pointing to the sky, so dark when it should be daytime, pierced by a single faraway star with a name.
And my thoughts when I connect those two pictures are not really about universality—although it’s pretty cool when you think about two children, a generation apart, being told by bookish fathers to look up at the sky…when you think about all those generations of children inspired to look at the stars, to call them by different names and invent legends about their creation and fall and meaning…a curiosity that became faith in something higher…no, my thought is this—
Is this the moment when your memories begin? If I remember that moment with my father, and I couldn’t have been much older than you, does that mean that you’ll remember everything from here on out? Because for the last two and a half years, we’ve operated on the assumption that you WON’T. We figured that all our fun experiences were great for your development, but were mostly for OUR benefit. When we took you to the zoo, we didn’t think you’d ever recall your meeting with a monkey. But maybe now you will. That scares me, because I’m not perfect and I don’t want you to remember the times I was impatient (although it’s inevitable), but it’s also exciting. Will you remember last week, when we were stuck in traffic, singing hymns and songs by The Cars to pass the time? Or how I pulled the colored pencil out of your mouth a few hours ago? It’s all fair game to add to your wonderings.
And the stakes are higher if these days are going to stay with you…memories following you into manhood.
Someday, maybe you and your son or daughter can look up at the sky and talk about the stars and whatever fantasy you attach to them. Although, it’s possible that Daylight Savings Time will be in the past by then…it IS kind of a hassle.
Anyway, I leave you with these words:
hearts will fly when the new world starts
and joy will rise like the morning star
God will meet every cry of the heart…
and it’s my prayer
I want you to be there.
It’s true. But if you ever listen to the song, focus on the words. The music is…dated.
I love you,