I thought long and hard on how to describe Illumination Night, and finally realized I couldn't. Now sure, I could say something like: "It's the night when people hang Japanese lanterns outside their cottages."
But, those words don't begin to convey what a sparkling event it truly is! It's like saying the Lighthouse of Alexandria was a lighthouse. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were gardens. The Sphinx is a statue of a lion with the head of a man.
You see? Flat, bland words that state a fact, but carry none of the true spirit, the essence of the event.
It started just over a century ago on the island of Martha's Vineyard; the gingerbread cottages in the Campgrounds of Oak Bluffs would hang Japanese lanterns on their porches as a celebration of summer's twilight. Thousands came each year.
Yet, growing up with it; well, it was like living at the entrance to Disney World. Soon the "Magic" looses its luster. My friends and I would wander the narrow streets, elbowing our way through the crowd as if shrouded in a dense fog. We were more interested in catching minnows at the pond to go fishing, than seeing the sights. Soon the years blended together, becoming portraits of the same image. We only grumbled about the noise and crowds.
Then came August 1991, I took my girlfriend Jo Ann to see the Island, to see the cottages, and the places of my youth. Then came "the" night. She had noticed the huge sign proclaiming it, and her brow wrinkled at the words.
"Grand? Illumination? What on earth was that?" she asked.
I gave her the meaningless description.
That night, we sat in the Tabernacle, the large, round church-like building at the center of the Campgrounds, and watched as the first lantern was lit. Within minutes, lanterns warmly smiled from every porch. Walking about, the crowds looked smaller. Perhaps it was due to my higher vantage point.
"Why, this is like a parade where the floats stand still, and the people move around them," she said.
The dark cloak fell away at that moment, and I saw Illumination Night with eyes re-born. I saw it through her eyes. I looked down, certain that I was standing in a puddle. Nope, nothing; it wasn't outside of me. The warmth rose up my legs, like water up a straw. It flowed into my chest cavity, and ensnared my heart.
A beat; a good beat.
There, swirling within her brown eyes was the beauty and meaning of this event. Without another person, our souls have no mirror upon which to reflect, and without a reflection, we are incomplete.
We were married that November.
There's a line from a movie: "You had me at 'hello'." She had me the night she gave me back a simple childhood joy, and with it, my reflection.
Click here for more by AJ Robinson.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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