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Surely I’m not the only one who has a strange unexplainable memory from childhood. A mystery of a memory that to this day stands as clear and pronounced as those early morning thoughts after  a couple of cups of fresh brazen coffee.

I was only four years old, close to five, but four.  My best friend, Kelly, lived across the street from our Eichler home back in the “Mad Men” days of life in lazy California suburbia.  Kelly had perfectly matched twin beds covered in fabric that sang of castles and Prince Charmings.  She had an all-to-herself room, foreign to this little girl who shared small spaces with five other siblings. In my eyes, my friend’s room was like a kingdom.

One foggy Friday night, we giggled and talked about boys, bugs and Barbie. We waded into hours untold and when we finally fell asleep, it was sudden and abrupt, like being plunged from a tower’s peak into the dark abyss where things unseen were awake and unbothered by the light snores of sleeping girls.

Later, in the black void of a midnight room, Kelly shook me awake.  She coaxed me with a firm and gentle nudge, “Come with me to the bathroom, I don’t want to go alone.”

I awoke quickly remembering I wasn’t in my own room.  I was on instant alert.  This was my first “overnight” and despite my previous declarations of independence and adventure, I was suddenly longing for the softness of my Mommy and the strong presence of Dad.  On the hallway to the bathroom, the ceilings loomed high, cavernous and full of unnameable spaces where surely monsters must be lurking.

I stayed focused on the back of my friend as I followed her obediently into the bathroom.  She flipped on the light switch and my little soul settled. The world looked normal again.  But Kelly heard a noise.  “What was that?” she asked breathlessly, in a whisper, her face close to mine, her eyes as wide as my beating heart.

I told her I didn’t hear anything but she was convinced she had heard something sinister, something bad.  She marched with purpose into her parent’s room with me following timidly behind like a second hand item from a neighbor’s garage sale.

Kelly’s father who certainly didn’t possess the softness of my mother or the calming presence of my father got up reluctantly.  Grumbling and mumbling like a sorcerer’ curse, he grabbed a flashlight to prove to his insistent daughter and her mouse of a friend that there were no such things as ghouls who would snatch us to eternal prisons housed outside the light of this world.

The house was searched.  Every corner, nook and cranny.  And nothing. “See, girls, there’s nothing here.  I told you!  Now back to bed!”  He held Kelly’s hand firmly as he escorted us back to our room.   Once again, I followed behind like a dutiful servant with my head bent down towards the floor thinking only of “Home“.

Suddenly, a bright glow caught my eye.  I looked to the right of me and saw, with the innocent disbelief of a child, BRIGHT ORANGE GLOWING DUCK‘S FEET.  Yes, duck’s feet!   How could this be but yet there they were! No duck body, no duck head, just bright glowing orange duck’s feet walking right next to me, keeping up with my every step.

There were no ghastly ghosts, no hideous zombies, no devious men with blood running down their scarred faces lurching towards me.  This was how I knew it wasn’t a nightmare.  It was absurd! It was real!  They were real!  BRIGHT ORANGE GLOWING DUCK‘S FEET!   Not even the laziest of nightmares could have conjured that up.  

I tried to speak, to call out to my friend and her silly father but I couldn’t. The words refused to come held captive by my fear.  Those glowing duck’s feet illuminated evil.  Short relief came when we were safely back in Kelly’s room with the door shut tight and the lights kept on.

I told her about the orange glowing duck’s feet and she laughed until her tears covered her frayed and well-loved blankie.  I was incredulous.  How could she not believe what I knew to be true?  What I had seen?

Her laughter gradually turned to silence and the slow steady inhale and exhale of her breath as she fell back asleep was no comfort to me.  I was terrified by those ill-intentioned duck’s feet and wanted only to go home.

As soon as I heard the morning stirrings of the grown-ups, I jumped out of bed, got dressed, said a quick thank you and scurried out the front door and made a bee line for home.

I stormed through my front door demanding full attention.  As I blurted out my truer than a nightmare story, my face burned bright red with the passion of fear and power stored too long.  No matter no one believed me. I believed me and I was home and I was safe.  

It would be years before I could spend the night at the homes of my friends. My mother spent many a late night picking me up from attempted slumber parties and failed all-night girl fests.  I would be sick as a dog, sticking my head out the station-wagon window as the car weaved its angry way back down those twisted country roads that led us to Home.  Gagging but never getting sick, I’d glance occasionally at the irritated frowns lining up in rows on my mother’s face and I would turn, close my eyes and clinch my fists.  

There are times I think back on that strange night so many decades ago and I can still see those bright orange duck’s feet that scared me so and made my spine and memories morph into icy suspension.  The mind of The Adult tells me, “Silly.”  “A bad dream.”  “A tall tale.”  

But the Child within me stomps her feet, shakes her head and insists with all her tiny forte,  “It was real!  They were real!  I tell you, it was real!”

And the Me In The Now listens.  And pauses.  And thinks.  And feels.  And remembers.   And closes her eyes.  And clinches her fists.

And believes.  

Mystery solved.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Kathy Holmes wrote Jun 10, 2011
    • Your childhood sounds like mine - I was also in southern California during the Mad Men era - and often blog about this - lol!

      But, yeah, staying over was always scary, wasn’t it? Waking up in the middle of the night, hearing strange wounds, wondering where you were? Seems there was always some unexplainable going on.

      Great story!


      Kathy Holmes, Author
      Real Women Wear Red
      The Tom Jones Club
      Viva, Las Vegas, A Shaker of Margaritas: Hot Flash Mommas anthology
      Cougars in Cabo, A Shaker of Margaritas: Cougars on the Prowl  anthology

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Msj wrote Jun 10, 2011
    • lLove the story. What is the Mad Men era??

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