“I want you home before the streetlights come on!”

What I didn’t understand as a child, but now as an adult find it crystal clear

Do you remember in elementary school when somebody’s mom would bypass the front office and enter the classroom, and classmates would ask each other, “who’s momma is that?” She was the same momma who would yell out the front door and call you by your full government name, Rachelle Diane Cole, “I want you home before the streetlights come on!” 

The rule was simple, and most of us had to be home before all the lights on the street came on. As I remember, the lights started coming on at one end of the road and worked their way down the block, so once that first light flickered, it was a signal for us all.

When I was sixteen, I remember my mom still enforcing that same rule with a few rare exceptions that I would be home when the streetlights came on.  Home meant being in my front yard where my mom could look outside the door or window to see me.  Home meant nearby where my mom need only call my name, and I could reply immediately.

 A sixteen-year-old being required to be home when it got dark seemed like a cruel and ludicrous request.  I was a teenager, for God’s sake.  I found it unusual that everyone else could stay away from the house longer than I.  Indeed, my maturity counted for something – a couple of extra minutes. I thought I was a good kid and an even better student. I had never been in trouble, so in my eyes, that had to qualify me to stay out later. Often, I wondered if something had happened to my mom when she was a child.

What I didn’t understand as a child, but now as an adult find it crystal clear that the world we live in is a dark place. My mom knew that the more significant number of violent crimes, i.e., shootings and homicides, occurred at night after the streetlights came on. Now more than ever, I appreciate how much my mom loved me. She wasn’t being mean or what I thought of as unfair. She protected me from dark experiences that no child should ever go through. She was keeping me close to protect me from the world as I know it now. She wanted to see me grow up and not be a victim of the things that lurked in the darkness.

Getting home has become the greatest challenge in the world. There’s no getting home before the streetlights, some are not ever coming home.

 Thank you, Lord, that I made it home.

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