It’s hard to find the brightest star in the sky
In theory, Venus is the brightest, easiest to locate. What actually happens is that you’d look at one star, and then another, and then another, comparing them, until everything seems to be made of stars.
When I was little, I was determined to find the brightest one. Each night, I’d go to the window my mother always kept closed, and resolutely squash my nose against it. Unable to decide on the brightest of them all, I’d cry repeatedly.
My mother tried everything. Coddling, scolding, and keeping the curtains shut. Nothing worked. I assume she went to my father one day, tired of dealing with a wailing child every night. One evening, my father came to my room. His bushy moustache failed to hide the grin beneath it, as he looked at my mother, almost driven mad by my sobbing.
He gestured to the door with his head. Go, he seemed to say to my mother. I’ll deal with her.
As my mother walked out, my father looked at me, and patted his lap. I crawled onto it, confused.
“Is it the stars?” he whispered.
“Your mother told me. You want to find the brightest one?”
I nodded again.
Carrying me, he walked to the window, and opened it.
“Tell me,” he said “Which one do you think is the brightest?”
“That one, and that one and that one, and-” I burst into fresh tears, my fingers still pointing at the stars.
My father made a weird noise in the back of his throat. At first, I thought he was angry, but when I looked up, I saw him struggling not to laugh.
“It’s not funny!” I said indignantly, insulted that he was laughing.
“No, no it’s not.” he replied, “I tried to find the brightest star too. At first, I thought I found her. I was convinced she was the brightest. But then one day, it changed.”
He smiled. “You were born.”
He pointed at the sky. “All these stars there? They’re all bright. But I have the brightest star in my arms.”
I put my arms around his neck. “You’re my brightest star too.” I told him.
It could’ve been a trick of the light, but I could swear that his eyes were shining.
“Are you crying?” I ask him
He shakes his head determinedly “That’s impossible. Fathers never cry”
After that, we’d point all the different stars out every night, but in the end, he always told me “You’re still the brightest one.”
I would always say it back, and call him my brightest star, and he would look sad. “For now.” He’d tell me
The white dress is heavier than I thought it’d be. As I take my father’s arm to walk down the aisle, he smiles.
“Now there’s a man who agrees with me.” He whispers mischievously
“He agrees with me. Look at the way he looks at you- he also thinks you’re the brightest star in the sky”
Perhaps this was yet another trick of the light, but my father’s eyes seemed bright, as if filled with tears.
“Are you going to cry now?” I tease.
He looks at me resolutely, and shakes his head.
As my husband says his wedding vows, I hear him whisper “Fathers never cry.”
I thank the nurse and she walks away. I push the door open, wincing, as a sharp pain shoots through my hips, and walk inside. My father is in a wheelchair, his hand connected to an IV bag.
His face is wrinkled, and he’s thinner, but his eyes are still the same. He looks at my stomach, and smiles.
“Your mother told me.” he says, lighting up. “It’s a boy?”
“Is it night?” he asks me. I nod again, and he points at the window. I wheel him over, and he looks at me.
“The brightest star. Where is it?” he asks.
I finally understood what he’d been trying to tell me all those years ago. The brightest star in the sky is never always the brightest. One day, a new star comes along, with a light so bright it becomes the centre of your universe.
“Where’s the brightest star?” he asks insistently.
In answer, I silently place a hand on my stomach.
“You got it.” He tells me with a smile.
My son was born at midnight. When they gave him to me, I asked to be wheeled to the window. I looked at all the stars, and thought about the man who told me I was the brightest of them all. I wished he was here to see me today, as I held the brightest star of the sky in my arms.