this thing's incredible

The Moon-Shaped Night-Light I Raised My Sons By

The moon, for a child, is a thing of wonder. Often discussed but rarely seen, it gets up at bedtime, when it’s dark outside and children are dreaming. Darkness, for a child, is a thing of terror. This — a cheap yellow crescent-shaped night-light that has hung in our sons’ bedroom since the first one was born four years ago — is the salve.

Like so many nursery adventurers, this journey took us to Red Hook’s Ikea. Near the end, when your willpower has been entombed, there opens a clearing of plush toys and cheap tents. And among them was a light similar to this. Like all things Ikean in provenance, it had a name that sounded like a sneeze or a come-on: Smila Mane. In bad humor, I passed the night-light by and headed for meatballs. A short while later, I grew to regret the decision. The Smila Mane is not available online and so I looked to the heavens, or at least to Amazon. And that’s where I found this simulacra of a simulacra. Is this light Smila Mane too? I can not say. But its simplified lunar silhouette summons warm memories of its predecessor.

By its warm weak light, we have read the sad tale of Tomi Ungerer’s Moon Man and the unsettling oven odyssey of Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen. Unlike other more realistic moon night-lights, this one casts a yellowish glow and its form is so simplified the light is more gesturally lunar than literally so. That the light casts such a suffuse glow, so different from the blue-white light of those tyrannical screens that rule our days, sets off the children’s room as a protected area. It’s like a wildlife refuge, and judging from the small plastic menagerie of realistic Schleich beasts strewn about the floor, my sons tend to agree.

I know every centimeter of it, from the sturdy insertion of the seven-foot cord to the body to the soft ombré the 15-watt bulb (included) creates at the tips of the yellow plastic skin. I’ve stared at it for countless hours as my sons drifted off to sleep. Under its soft glow, my eyes have struggled to describe what happens when you give a mouse a cookie, a pig a pancake, a moose a muffin, or a dog a donut. Even as everything else in our lives has shifted — boroughs to boroughs, cribs to beds, motor manipulatives to stretchy tortoise toys and Transformers — the night-light has remained constant and steady.

Moon Night-Light

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The Moon-Shaped Night-Light I Raised My Sons By