Hurricane Sandy roared and wailed outside our door, shook down trees across the street, pounded our roof so hard my two little sons couldn’t even recognize the sound as rain. “Drum!” insisted my two-year-old. The kids coped fine until the lights went out. Then they panicked.
Of all the things to fear about a hurricane, darkness is one of the least dangerous. Try telling that to a five-year-old. He can’t wrap his head around why 70 mph winds are worse than wind he’s allowed to play in. He probably could have understood why storm surge is scary if we’d been close to any — fortunately, we’re on high ground and nowhere within sight of a body of water. All the anxiety the boys had detected in the adults around them, all their own anxiety from watching the storm through the windows that day, rushed instantly to compound their longstanding fear of the dark.
As soon as we had flashlights ready to read by, the kids knew exactly which book they wanted. The Way Back Home is the story of a boy and a Martian who get stranded on the Moon and work together to get themselves and their flying machines back where they belong. Before the boy and the Martian find one another, they huddle in the dark, hearing strange noises, fearing the worst. The boy’s flashlight goes out! My sons wanted that page again and again, because that night the idea of losing the flashlight’s comfort was utterly terrifying.