Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Boogeyman!

The first time I saw your glowing green eyes staring at me through the window I froze. I couldn’t breathe, my heart began to race, my stomach twisted and I could feel the blood drain from my face. A scream got stuck in my throat on it’s way up to my mouth. It seemed like I stood there for hours as you jerked me from the reality of a 53 year old grandmother back to that of a frightened 8 year old little girl…

Mom and Dad had gone out to the N.C.O. club that night to play bingo and left Helen, our 15 year old neighbor to babysit me, my sister and two brothers. I had always liked her when she had watched us before during the day, but this was the first night our parents had left us with her. The four of us ranging in age from eight down to five were a handful but Helen knew how to keep us entertained. I can still see her red hair bobbing as she played the newest rock and roll hit records and taught us how to do the latest dances. She wore us out and then had us racing to see who could get their pajamas on the fastest. “The winner gets an extra graham cracker with their milk.” she promised.

My sister won but only because she kept her clothes organized and was the first to find her PJ’s. After the rest of us greedily gobbled up our graham crackers, my sister took great delight in dipping her extra one in her milk slowly, savoring every bite. My brothers and I sat there staring at her, our eyes following every movement of that last cinnamon sprinkled graham cracker. Helen must’ve sensed the envy because she whisked my brothers and I off to the bathroom to wash our hands. Within seconds after we left, my sister joined us.

To complete our bedtime routine, my sister and I knelt down and said our prayers while Helen tucked the boys in, then I climbed into the top bunk and covered up. “Great!” she said when she came in “You girls are already in bed.” She turned off the light and said “Good night.”

“My mom always leaves the door open and the hall light on.” I anxiously informed her as she pulled the door like she was going to shut it. 

“You’re a big girl, you don’t need the light.” she said impatiently.

“But I’m scared of the dark!” I whined 

“Which are you more afraid of the dark or the boogeyman?” she asked, obviously annoyed with me. 

“Who’s the boogeyman?”

“He’s who’s gonna come get you if you don’t lay down and go to sleep!” She warned. “He’s got green glowing eyes and he’s right outside your window!” she yelled and shut the door. I instinctively looked out our second story window and I swear I saw two green glowing eyes staring back at me through the opening in the yellow gingham curtains! I yanked the covers over my head and trembled. I couldn’t bring myself to come out from under those covers. 

A few minutes later I heard the front door open and listened intently for my mom and dad’s voices before I even considered venturing out from under the safety of my covers. What I heard was a strange male voice followed by a loud “Shhh!” and barely audible steps down the hallway on our wooden floors. Had she let the boogeyman in?! The living room door closed and I heard no more. 

I lie there for what seemed like an eternity, too frightened to come out from under the thin yellow blanket that was my refuge. I couldn’t even conceive of calming down while believing that you, some green eyed monster was in my house and that you would come after me if I didn’t go to sleep. How could I possibly sleep? I got more and more frightened lying there imagining you coming in after me. 

Every noise I heard startled me, the wind howling, my sister moving around below my bunk. I wanted to call out to her but when I opened my mouth no sound came out. It wasn’t until I heard the front door open and my mom laughing followed by my dad warning her not to wake us, that I remember breathing again. Seconds later light streamed in from the hallway and I pulled the covers off my head when I smelled my mom’s White Shoulders perfume mingled with cigarette smoke.

“What are you doing still awake?” she asked me taking a drag of her Salem menthol. “Your sister is sound asleep.”

“I was scared and couldn’t sleep with the door closed.”

She blew the smoke towards the open door, kissed my forehead and reassured me that she’d leave the door open and the hall light on. “Thanks Mom.” I said relieved. She walked over to the window and pulled the curtains completely shut. It was as if she somehow instinctively knew what I needed. When I finally looked toward the window all I saw was the lit end of her cigarette glowing red in the darkness and the smile on her face in the light from the hallway. I smiled back and rested my weary head on my pillow. I took a deep breath in, welcomed the familiar smell of her and finally slept.

What I had no way of knowing then was that Helen had wanted the door closed because her boyfriend was coming over. I was already afraid of the dark. Helen throwing you, Mr. Green Eyed Boogeyman, the mythical embodiment of terror, into the mix so she could swap spit with her beau was thoughtless and bordered on cruel. 

Forty-five years, two grown children and one grandchild later I came around the corner toward the kitchen in my new place and saw your two green glowing eyes peering at me through a window again. The legacy of fright that Helen had left with me had awakened after lying dormant for over four decades. Standing there frozen with fear and no yellow satin edged blanket to pull over my head I just stared back.

My logical adult mind pushed aside my vivid childhood memories in an attempt to find an explanation. After all, I reassured myself, the boogeyman isn’t real and no person  has eyes that glow green in the the clock on the kitchen microwave.

It's amazing to me that at my height, in that one spot, at night, the double paned kitchen window reflects the green microwave clock lights in a way that makes them look exactly like the two green glowing eyes I saw almost a half century ago.  As the logic set in and my body attempted to recover from the fear, I rubbed my eyes, took a deep breath, exhaled and then laughed with relief.

I had imagined you often over the years lurking in the shadows, but I had never seen your eyes again until that night over a year ago.  I’ve made my peace with you now.  Every night when I venture from my bedroom I see those green glowing eyes and if not aloud then in my mind I bid you “Aloha.”  I know, I know…it’s the kitchen appliances. Tell that to the frightened little eight year old girl inside of me, and bring her a blanket. There were no appliances in her bedroom.

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