Sunday, August 10, 2008


This week's question from David McMahon over at Authorblog for his Weekend Wandering assignment is this: As a child, were you afraid of the dark?

One of the family stories I heard over and over was how, when I was about 2-3 years old, I followed my grandfather everywhere -and I do mean EVERYWHERE! He couldn't make a move apparently without having me, right behind him, as a little tail.

Until I was 18 years old, our bathroom set-up in this house was a little odd -all of it was in the basement, but not in one place. The commode was at the foot of the cellar steps - a little stall - and the tub, well, that was located in the "laundry room" at the opposite end of the basement, along with the washing machine, a set of two laundry tubs and the bucket-a-day stove that heated our water supply and held it in the hot water tank just behind the little stove.

Since I trailed Grandpa wherever he went -including bathroom stops -this made life a bit uncomfortable for him so he had decided the only way to get away from me would be to go downstairs in the dark -don't turn the cellar light on at the switch on the dining room wall, don't turn any lights on as he made his way from the furnace room, which is where the commode was situated, till he got across the basement and safely (or so he thought) into the laundry room.

However, he soon found that didn't work either when, one night, he went down to take a bath -moving about like a thief in the night in total darkness -but when he got into the laundry room and pulled the chain to turn the overhead light on there, he felt something tugging at his pantleg and there I was, right behind him, as usual and saying "Hi, Grandpa!"

The upshot of that trial and error method (that didn't work as he had planned) was that he picked me up, carried me back upstairs and told my Mom to "Keep this damned kid upstairs, will ya, so I can take a bath!"

Well, that was then -when I was about 2-3 years old but those roamings in the dark came to a end somewhere around the time I was maybe 4-5 years old and they stayed with me for many years too as I became terrified of the dark.

From that time -about age 4-5 -until I was probably 12-13 years old or so -one of my biggest fears of the dark had to do with going to bed. I was convinced there was someone or something laying under the bed, ready to reach out and grab me as I crawled in there at night to go to sleep. As a result of that fear, and with my bed set-up right beside the doorway into my bedroom, I would take a little run and jump into the bed. The idea being that if my feet weren't on the floor whatever was under there couldn't possibly grab them then. Hey, it made sense to me for many years although my mother rather frowned on this method.

In my teen years, although I still had some notions about something lurking under the bed, I did stop the run and jump routine but was afraid to go anyplace that involved walking in the dark -outside.

Because I was also active in our church young people's group (then known as Luther League) and also, because I was a member of the church choir, I often had to walk to our church for those meeting, those choir practices at least one night a week. It was a fairly long walk and was uphill too (no, not both ways, as Bill Cosby says in one of his comic routines) but going to church did require climbing a fairly long, steep hill.

Most of the time though since my neighbor and best friend (Kate) also belonged to the choir and the Luther League and always attended the meetings and choir practice, I didn't have to walk that distance (close to a mile) alone. Having someone walking in the dark with me made me able to put my fears aside ya know.

However, once in a blue moon if Kate didn't go to one of these weekly things, I would have to do the hard thing -walk up and back by myself and in the dark.

People throughout the village would then be "treated" to a lot of singing as I would make my way to and from the church in the dark. I would sing, loudly too I might add, as I walked along and my choice of songs was also always the same one -"Abide With Me!"

Apparently it worked too because I was never accosted during any of those walks, saw no ghosts or apparitions and always arrived at the church and back home too, safe and sound.

It's funny too ya know but as a kid, at night, laying in bed, I would hear every little noise imaginable and it would scare me. Mom always said it was just the house creaking and nothing to fear but still, it used to scare the bejeebers out of me.

Here I am now, over six decades later, still living in the same big old house and the funny thing to me is that now, I never hear any creakings in the old homestead any more!

But maybe that old fear of the dark is one reason I am such a night owl - just never want to go to bed early -or at least rarely ever before 1 or 2 a.m. at any rate. My Mom and grandparents would never allow going to bed and leaving a light on, not even the hall light.

When my kids and I moved in here I did put up a night light in the upstairs hall though -mainly to give a little bit of light for anyone who might have to get up during the night and make their way downstairs to the bathroom. (It's on the first floor now -has been since 1963.) And the funny thing there is my son always insisted on having that night light while Mandy used to get really ticked off about it and wanted the night light off.

Maybe it's a bit of a heriditary thing too. Who knows?

But Mandy, my son and I, ALL three of us, prefer to have the tv on when we go to sleep. I guess that's our own "comfort zone" to trick us into thinking we aren't all alone, in the dark, ya know.


Lee said...

Hi Jeni,

Your stories take me back to the same age. I had a grandpa I loved like that too. Lucky for him I loved Grandmother almost as much, and they lived in a different house, but not for two weeks one Christmas. ;)

My ex had the TV thing thanks to his mom. I have night lights from childhood and soft music now, a compromise with the ex, to help me get to sleep. Books help a lot. :)


leslie said...

Hi, I came over from David's to read your story about the dark. I also thought something was under the bed lurking to grab my feet if they went off the edge of the bed. To this day, I still don't let my feet dangle off the bed.

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SandyCarlson said...

I did the run and jump thing, too! I enjoyed this post. I could identify with so much of what you said.

I wonder if the idea of being separated from the adults who took care of things by day was the big bummer about the dark....

Melinda said...

It's good to know that I'm not the only one who's taken the running leap on and off of the bed as a child. Our neighbourhood was also treated to my singing whenever I walked home in the dark. Even to this day, I get nervous when going into a dark basement or walking alone at night.

I wanted to stop by and tell you that you've been tagged! (sorry if you hate memes)
The rules are pretty simple:
1. Write 7 interesting or random facts about yourself.
2. Tag 7 people you want to learn more about.
3. Post a comment on their blogs to let them know.

Have fun!

Mary said...


What a fabulous childhood story. You've written it well and I felt as if I was right there with you throughout the entire story.

I grew up in the country and it was always pitch black unless the moon was shining bright - no street lamps to help light the way. Yet my brother and I were always outside at night, playing games or running through the fields trying to catch fireflies.

I enjoyed my visit. Things are still a bit hectic here, but "this too shall pass," as Grandma used to say.

Take care and have a great week.


terri said...

Just popping by quick to apologize for not getting over here sooner. I'm trying to catch up on all my favorite blogs since I've been gone a few days. Don't know if you are aware but your feed is still not updating in my reader. Anyway, I'll be back to catch up with you later today... have a good one!

Minnesotablue said...

We lived in a fairly isolated area for a few years when I was a child and I remember being afraid if I could see the moon. I would hide under the covers till morning.

Maggie May said...

I don't think I was afraid of the dark but my brother was & as I had to share a bedroom with him until I was 8, I was often kept awake by his crying.

Louise said...

The grandpa part of the story is hilarious!

And I don't think I'd go hanging around in dark basements, either. I think I would hold it until morning if the need arose.

And I relate to the staying up. I've done that at some alone times in my life. If I'm so tired I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow, then I'm not afraid of anything!

quilly said...

I did the same thing with my bed. The only way I could have gotten it closer to my light switch was to put it in front of my closet -- and Gram wouldn't let me!

My Weekend Wandering tale of terror is here: What Goes Thump in the Night?