A scream pierced the darkness. 5:15 a.m.
I flew down the hall to the shaking, sitting up form of my oldest daughter. She sobbed into her hands, "The little man downstairs. He had a knife!"
Just a dream, I knew. I soothed. But the knowing of that, and the soothing of her didn't take the terrors away. Her daddy tried to share his wisdom in the wee hours of the morning with little ears that only heard one thing. He didn't believe her.
I shushed them both and picked her up. Carrying her back to my bed, I wrapped my hands around her, held her close. Not until this moment have I realized how much she's grown. Long legs, slender arms, ocean blue eyes that see far more than we give her credit for.
When she was a baby (toddler) 5 a.m. was her time to relive incidents from the day before. I'd perk my ears as I stroked her back, and she talked in her sleep, wailing about unresolved daycare issues. 5 a.m. is her witching hour, the time that she shares her soul with me, and I stand on the sideline and watch her subconscious deal out the blows to the bad ones that my soft spoken little miss couldn't perform while awake.
Now, she's reliving a movie we watched last night: Arthur & The Incredibles. An innocent enough tale with fanciful creatures, good and bad. A secret universe, under our very noses, with a princess, a prince, and a happy ending. And of course, where there is good, so there is evil. A tiny, scary creature with a sword and a vengeance. The story is all about balance of good and evil. Yin and Yang. Light and dark. We laughed, we danced to the music, and we cheered when love conquers all.
But, in her dreamland, convinced that she truly crept downstairs in search of a secret snack only to find the little scary man with his knife.
Was it real? Real enough for a 4 year old on the edge of turning 5. Real enough to curl up with her mama under the covers and stare, wide eyed at the horizon and wait for the first fingers of dawn to unfold the blanket of dark. Real enough for me to hold on to her, stroke her back, and keep the nightmares at bay.