My dad was talking about his brother Gary at dinner the other evening. We went to visit my parents on Saturday and stayed for Easter brunch (complete with copious mimosas) on Sunday. The topic came up of things that scared us when we were kids. He brought up “the lady in the closet” that his older brother used to frighten him with when he was little. First he called her the witch in the closet and then recanted and said that Gary called her the lady in the closet.
My sisters and I decided that “the lady” was far more sinister sounding than “the witch” anyway. The lady, for me, brings up flashback’s from The Shining and the woman in the bathtub. A witch is pretty cookie-cutter as far as your visualization. A lady could be anything, including a witch, but not crammed into just that tiny box. She could be a zombie. Or Joan Crawford with her wire hangers. Or the other mother from Coraline.
Or Cruella de Vil. Or the witch from Hansel and Gretelwith her bad eyesight and hot oven, asking you to stick a finger out so she can feel how plump you are. Or even Lady Gaga (added after she kept popping up in my pictures and I couldn’t figure out why, but, yeah, that would be a nightmare).
Gary died when he was in his twenties. I think he and my father had only recently gotten to an age where they could be friends instead of an older brother who tormented his annoying, significantly younger sibling. And then a wayward blast from a fire hose caught my dad’s brother and slammed him into a wall.
“I wish he was still here so I could yell at him for scaring the shit out of me with the lady in the closet,” my dad said the other night. How awesome would that be? I’d love to ask him how he pictured her and where he got the idea. I’d love just to know him.
How about everyone else? What monsters, clowns, or ladies skulked in your closets when you were young? Me, I always thought there was some sinister robot out in the hallway because of the ticking of my clock. Somehow, the noise always got incrementally louder to me, like the robot was getting closer, and closer, and infinitely closer, but never quite there until I was ready to pee myself. He never showed up at my door, though. Thank God. Every time I had to run to the bathroom in the middle of the night I always half-expected to see his sharp metal teeth smiling at me when I opened the door.
Anyway, Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed is due out in ten days. I, for one, cannot wait to see what horrors lurk between those pages. I’m sure I’ll be up late into the night, reading to the sound of my ticking clock and trying to “hold it in” until the sun comes up.