We are lighting our lanterns to find our way,

As night descends upon the earth,

My mama trims the wicks and refills the lanterns

with precious oil, not to be wasted.

“Keep the flame low”  she instructs my brother and me,

“so you won’t waste any of the oil”

We handle the lanterns carefully, each of us,

taking one to carry to the barn, moving quietly

and steadily across the backyard to the barn,

Where Matilda-the-cat has given birth to kittens.

Mama has said we could check on the kittens

before we go to bed, but not to touch any of them.

“Matilda-the-cat wont like it if you touch her babies,

Mama warned, “and then she might reject a kitten

and it could die”.

We promised not to touch any of the kittens.

We just wanted to take a look.

The barnyard looks different at night;

off somewhere an owl hoots and Ike, our dog,

barks a response to Mr. Owl.

My brother shakes with fright; I see his lantern shaking.

“It’s ok” I tell him “Ike will protect us from harm”

(I am the older sister; I know these things).

At the barn we move carefully to the stall where

Matilda-the-cat has given birth that morning.

We take a look at the kittens.  They don’t look anything

like their mother.

Matilda-the-cat mews at us. “We’re not touching”

I tell her.

“We’d better go back into the house” my brother says

and I think he is afraid.

We turn around and head for the lit kitchen; it seems far away

when it is so dark outside.

We carry our lanterns back to the house where it is warm

and cozy.

It is a grownup thing to be able to carry your own lantern.

We swell with pride as we carry them into the house.

Mama smiles at us as we enter the kitchen.

“Some hot cocoa?” she asks.  I say “Oh yes” and

we begin to tell mama about the newborn kittens

in the barn.

“We didn’t touch any of the kittens” my brother tells mama.


Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted October 31, 2009

Updated august 17, 2018

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