Essay: Voices in the Dark

Dec 1, 2017

When I was a child, I didn’t need a nightlight. What comforted me was the sound of my parents’ voices downstairs in the living room. Lying in the dark, I would hold very still and listen. Not for their words exactly, just the soft murmur of conversation.

If I didn’t hear them, I would get out of bed and tiptoe to the door. There, I strained to detect the slightest sound—even the rustle of a newspaper—to confirm their presence.

If everything was silent, I would go to the top of the stairs and call down, “Mom?”

Her musical voice would reply, “Yes?”

Then I would simply say, “Good night.” And two voices would say, “Good night.” It was enough to send me back to sleep.

While there was much that my parents did not give me, could not give me—of love and wisdom and emotional honesty—they gave me what they had. It’s all any of us can give and we look for ways to forgive the rest, be forgiven. My parents gave me what they had—and they were there every evening in the living room, talking quietly together.

“Yes?” my mother would say but it wasn’t a question. It was the answer.