Hans was a flashlight fanatic. This, of course, led to a rechargeable battery habit. He did not want to get caught on a highway emergency call without a good light. 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. Manfred 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.
For Christmas a few years ago, Manfred splurged on a slick 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 fairly good-sized hillside for sure.
Like the one on the 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 Volunteer Fire Department, Hans got 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 the frozen river and began firing into the air, the showers of fireworks cascading nicely over the ice. An impressive boom followed each dazzling explosion. It was a very dark night and the river is wide enough here 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 on the dock, 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. The beam of light again shone in my direction, then blinked on and off a few times. Then the strobe feature was activated. It was a signal from the flashlight fanatic who was not about to be upstaged by any fireworks extravaganza.
In plain view of the whole town, there was a private light show that night. For me.
Just for me.
Fast forward to another night, to last night. To a mother shivering outside under the October sky, eyes turned up to the blackness, straining to see into the far away where she knows her son to be. She tries desperately to see beyond the stars to where he is, but she cannot.
She gazes up and into the river of time and space. She knows she cannot cross this river yet and neither can her son come back to her. No, not yet.
She says his name very softly, as if he were near. Then louder. She shouts his name.
And at that precise moment, right when his name bursts from her heart, a shooting star streaks across the sky. For her.
Just for her.