Your mother woke you when you were a child, took your hand and pulled you from that little bed in that little room, led you downstairs and onto the cool cement porch.
“Look,” she said, and pointed to the heavens, pulsing green and blue and yellow. “It’s the northern lights.”
Tired, you leaned against the wooden porch post and held her hand. Angels dancing, is what it looked like to you. Silent angels.
* * *
Thirty and more years later you walked with your mother by a mighty river. You were in the lead. The two of you climbed a winding stair to a bridge and looked down at the wild water, churning its way south. You had just told your mother about something wild and churning inside yourself. She took your hand and held it.
“Everything will be okay,” she said. Her eyes filled but she looked at you steadily. “Everything will be all right.”
* * *
Years later, she told you that she had not been able to imagine how anything would possibly be all right.
“But I knew that’s what I had to say. That’s what you needed to hear.”
You’ve seen the northern lights many times since that night you were, what, four years old. But when you hear the phrase northern lights now, it is that first night you go back to. Your young mother, not yet 30, holding the hand of her little girl and pointing to something unearthly in the sky, something beyond any explanation that makes sense.
And for reasons you don’t understand, you also go back to that day by the wild water, her hand in yours, her voice calm, telling you that everything would be all right.