Her stockinged feet scurried over the linoleum floor into the kitchen to double check the stovetop knobs were all turned to the off position. She carefully carried the empty glass milk containers out of the kitchen, through the living room, and set them down on the floor beside her feet. As was customary at this time of year, the temperature was dropping at an alarming pace and she braced herself for the cold blast that was sure to hit her when she opened the front door. She took a deep breath, turned the knob and was jolted by a frost that seemed to wrap it’s cold limbs around her and seek to pull her right through the threshold of her warm abode into the frigid unknown of night with it’s dark shadows and nightly sounds. She quickly set the milk bottles outside and closed the door as a cold shiver ran through her. Turning back to the living room, she turned off the television and slid around the room flipping off lights. As she made her way back to the kitchen, she could hear her mom’s movements and knew she would find her standing in front of the kitchen sink washing the few items that always seemed to make their way there long after the “kitchen closed” each evening. Curls bouncing as she picked up her pace, she snuck up behind her mom and hugged her tight. “Want me to finish that?” Leaning back into her daughter’s arms her mom responded, “No need…I’m almost done.”
This exact scene had played out night after night since she was a little girl. This was their usual bedtime routine. Her siblings had already headed to bed after a little coaxing from their mother, but she always lingered for a bit to ensure she helped her mom with the nightly rituals. She effortlessly pulled herself up onto the kitchen counter, recalling how years back climbing that perch took a bit more effort when a chair was required as a bit of a stepping stone. She watched her mom as she finished the dishes, telling her the lights were all turned off and milk glasses were set out. Suddenly, she jumped off the counter, startling her mom as a spoon clattered into the sink. “I forgot to turn the front porch light on! Be right back!”
Every night for as long a she could remember, her dad worked the night shift at the local car manufacturing plant and never arrived back home before 2am. Her mom always made sure to leave the front porch light on for him, and it had become part of the young girl’s routine as well. Full of curiosity she had asked her mom years ago why it was so important to leave the porch light on for her dad, why on occasion, she had left the warmth of her bed and traveled through the house to make sure the glow of the small lamp flooded the porch. Why was it so important?
Her mother replied, “We want your dad to know that while we might not be awake to welcome him home, our last loving thought before ending our day was of him.”
It’s been years since my father passed away, and longer still since I was that little girl who lit that porch light, night after night. And yet, I still find myself leaving a light on, even when my husband and children are at home with me. I find comfort in the ritual and am forever warmed by it’s glow.
Who do you leave a light on for in your life? Is it someone who comes home to you? Is it habit? Is it for someone you know will never arrive? Maybe it’s not even for a person, instead for something in your life you still hope for?
Do you recall a ritual from your childhood that you still carry out today? If so, share it here. I would love to hear about it.