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Episodes: Counting stars


Emily VanDerWerff

Sep 09 2015

3 min read



When I was 10 or 11, a relative gave me a big sack of glow in the dark stars to affix to my ceiling. I'm not sure why, but I took them out a few months later and hung them up over my bed. Accidentally, they took on the loose configuration of a pirate, perhaps Captain Hook, his hooked hand forever raised in protest or farewell, waving goodbye to something.

The stars have remained stuck in place through so many major life developments, through sleepovers and girlfriends and late night study sessions and all-night writing sessions and moving out and coming home and marriage and leaving forever and eventually drifting back. They're a little dimmer every time I visit now, but still there. If I stare intently enough, I can see them, but in the way that you see the afterimage of a very bright light when you close your eyes. It's dark, but there's a remnant of something else.

This was the first time I've ever been home where I didn't feel like I really "belonged" there anymore. I don't say that to mean I've had a break from my parents and sister or anything like that. I say that to suggest that I feel increasingly like I am a separate person from the one who hung those stars. I recognize him. The glow he gives off is just over the horizon. But I'm off in some other place.

There was a night when everyone in my family was gathered around the table that I flashed back to all of those Christmas celebrations I went to as a child, when my father and his brothers or my mother and her siblings would gather with their own parents, and there would be laughter and inside jokes and the feeling of being not one unit but a constellation, something that made a design via its disparity, not in spite of it. I remembered my father and uncles gently teasing my grandmother, and I felt a little bit of that as my sister and I grinned about times our father had been ridiculous when we were children.

I felt, weirdly, "grown up" for one of the first times in my life. It put me in mind of that Calvin and Hobbes strip where the title characters muse about how adults must have it all figured out. For a moment, I really did think I had at least a little piece of it figured out. And that was elusive but electrifying.

The hardest thing to adjust to is the thought that you are just an ever-dimming part of some landscapes, that you will eventually leave and they will still be there, rolling along, becoming other places, while you become another person. Everything, even the stars, eventually fades.


(Sorry for the lateness of this. I had it all typed yesterday and forgot to send it.)


(Also, do all of these sound like the rantings of a chronic depressive or what? I realize this project is a way to expunge some of my literary bent, but I'll try and perk things up a bit.)


(Not entirely though. It can't be a Todd VanDerWerff Project without Death.)


Episodes is published daily, Monday through Friday, unless I don't feel like it. It is mostly about television, except when it's not. Read more of my work at Vox Dot Com.

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