Hans was a flashlight fanatic. This, of course, led to a rechargeable battery habit as well. He did not want to get caught on a highway emergency call without a good light, and car repairs and other work at home often had to be done in the dark as well.
So, not unexpectedly, this past Christmas Hans gave his dad a battery charger über alles to replace our older smaller one. They both had been eyeing this gadget for some time so it is surprising they didn’t end up giving each other the same gift. My husband was thrilled and Hans was pleased that his Dad was thrilled. They immediately began charging batteries with abandon.
With our long hours of winter darkness here in Alaska, a good flashlight is a necessity. An exceptional flashlight or headlamp is considered a status symbol in some circles. However, there are a lot of junky lights out there and we have the collection to prove it.
So, for Christmas a few years ago, Manfred and I splurged on a really nice LED flashlight for Hans. It is heavy, but not too large and has a zoom feature that allows you to widen the stream of light or to draw it down to a very focused square-shaped beam. This baby throws enough lumens to light up a mountainside. Okay, so maybe not a whole mountainside, but a pretty good-sized hillside for sure. Like the one on the opposite bank of the Tanana River, across from the town of Nenana, Alaska.
It was the annual winter fireworks spectacular and, being a member of the Nenana Fire Department, Hans was going to get to participate in putting on the pyrotechnic show for the town. This, of course was right up Hans’ alley.
The Fire Department folks set up across from the town on the frozen river and began firing into the air, the showers of fire cascading nicely over the ice. An impressive boom followed each dazzling explosion. It was a very dark night and the far bank of the river is enough distance away from the town side that all was blackness to us spectators gathered on the barge line’s dock on the opposite bank. From where we sat, the snow-covered hillside across the river provided the perfect backdrop. It was all sparkling bursts of color against the black sky, the glowing snowy night awash with color after each successful launch. It was magnificent.
But this mother’s eye was drawn to something else.
Bouncing around at the base of the hill, across the river that lay frozen between us, was a light. A flashlight. A very bright flashlight. I saw the stream of light widen and play upon the hillside. Then the beam narrowed into a very focused square-shaped beam. I saw the beam swing in my direction, then away again, then continue its cavorting as I watched.
There was another light show there that night. At least for me. Just for me.
Fast forward to another night, to last night. To a mother standing outside looking up to where she knows her son to be. Looking hard. She is trying to see beyond the stars to where he is, but she cannot. She is looking up, across a very wide river. She knows she cannot cross this river yet and neither can her son come back to her. She says his name very softly. Then louder. She shouts his name. And at that precise moment, right when she shouts, a shooting star darts across the sky.
Just for her.