A Christmas Song… in July

When my kids are home, I spend lots of time in the kitchen. I love my little cooking nook. It is very space efficient. The counter is shaped like a U. The stove is at the bottom in the curvy part of the U. The fridge is in the middle of the right line, and the double sink is in the middle of the left line. There is also a window facing the backyard just above the sink.

Like many people I know, I have magnets multiplying on the door of the fridge. Some have been there forever, mementos of places we’ve visited, while others have literally appeared out of nowhere. They are useful to keep notes that no one but me reads, and they add some color to the white door.

Some twelve years ago, we got one of those singing magnets. It was a tiny house decorated with snow on the roof and Christmas lights around the windows and door. When the kids press on its door, it sang a Christmas carol. I cannot remember which one, except to say that the lively tune drove me crazy after it played for the hundredth time. The kids being kids, they could not resist activating it every time they ventured in the kitchen. Thankfully, the battery died within a few months, and peace returned in my little nook.

591740_a_rip_in_the_skyIn my neck of the woods, we get many snowstorms, but I can count on my fingers the number of thunderstorms we get every summer. That is sad because I love thunderstorms, I truly love them, especially at night. No comments from the peanut gallery, please…

July of last year, late afternoon, we had a major thunderstorm while my daughter Sarah and I were cooking in the kitchen. I was pulling out ingredients from the cupboards. She might have been pretending to help. She was by the sink, looking out the window and commenting on the storm. The thunder grew louder and the lapse between the light and the clash dwindled to mere seconds. The storm was quickly moving closer and closer to our location. Suddenly, I heard a deafening bang. The house shook. Music filled the kitchen… We screamed.

Lighting had stuck in our backyard, some fifteen yards away from the window, at that same moment that my daughter’s fingers were touching the rim of the stainless steel sink. Through the sink, Sarah had received an electrical charge. Her skin tingled for 30 minutes, like she was wired to some invisible outlet. But her close encounter with the deadly force of nature wasn’t our only source of bewilderment. As strange as it sounded, we were both hearing Christmas music.678479_tree_ornament

A lively tune was playing loud and clear in the kitchen, a Christmas song that we had not heard in over a decade.

The lightning strike had re-energized the little fridge magnet. It sang for a few minutes, then died—for the second time.

Sidenote: Laptop’s new name -> Clio

Horror Movie Junkie

I got started loving scary movies early in life. With popcorn in hand on Saturday nights, my father and I would sit down in a dark room and watch “Creature Feature”. For those of you who never got to experience this phenomenon, it was the cream of the crop ‘B’ Horror Flicks. Dr. San Guinary and his assistant would host the movies each Saturday night. Looking back, I realize how hokey the films were, one of my favorite being the possessed chopped off hand that went around exacting revenge on people. Pretty bad special effects aside, I loved it. Ate it up. But, the show went the way most trends do, and was off the air after a couple of years.

One windy summer night when I was about sixteen, I got the special treat ofscary farmhouse being home alone. I rarely ever got this chance and I had been looking forward to staying home from fishing that night to watch “The Shining”. I had heard about this movie and it took me back to my childhood and Saturday movie nights. So, I popped some popcorn and sat down to watch this Stephen King movie. Now, I should have known better, having read some of King’s books. But, being the naïve teenager that I was, I didn’t realize the psychological twist my mind was about to take.

            By the time Danny starts seeing twins and spouting, “Redrum….redrum…,” I am a goner. Every house has its own noises–growing pains, my dad called them, as the house settles and moves. A creak here, a bang there. None of these are heard when the senses aren’t reeling and paranoia has not set in. They do, however, all show up when the hairs on the back of your neck are stretched to the limit and goosebumps have their own goosebumps. The darkened corners of my living room mocked me. Muhahahaha.

Was that a footstep? Nah. Couldn’t be. Could it? What was that scratching against the window?  Did the wind just pick up? Every noise was amplified, Hiding under blanketevery shadow was suspect. Thud, thud. Thud, thud. Was someone knocking on the door, or was my heart pounding in my ears? Well, I wasn’t about to get up and check. In fact I got so scared I couldn’t even get up to turn the T.V. off. No kidding. The afghan I had wrapped around me afforded me too many peek holes. I couldn’t pry my eyes loose. There were no such things as cell phones and I did not have a remote for that television set. We had no extra vehicles with which to use to escape. And being on a lonely farm, miles from anyone, where was I to go? I was a prisoner of my own wild imagination.

When the credits rolled I finally managed to get up and turn on all of the downstairs lights. But I was not about to make the long trek up to my room.  No way, Jose. You couldn’t have made me. It was about 2 a.m. before my family made it back home. Normally, they didn’t stay out that late at night, but the fish were biting and the light breeze had kept them cool. Light breeze? Who were they kidding? Well, the storm was all in my mind.

I didn’t get much sleep that night. Nowadays I don’t watch too many horror flicks. But there are those moments, late at night, when the shadows increase and I still hear something go bump in the night.

The Hand

            Shortly after my ninth birthday, I discovered a dead Black Lab in a deep ditch. The dog wasn’t maimed and looked as if it were merely asleep. An avid pet lover, I hurt for the dearly departed, but what a cool way to impress my friends with my maturity. Over the next few days, I took everyone I knew there to see it.

            As my friend, Kathy and I neared the gully, like a scene from a horror movie, the hand emerged from the sharp slope. The bony fingers raked at the side of the steep incline before disappearing downward. I stopped, ten feet away from the site.

            “Run, I saw something in the ditch!” I whispered, worried whoever or whatever dwelled there might hear.

            “It’s the dead dog, silly.” Kathy obviously didn’t see the hand.

            I dragged her a safe distance away and described the hand. She didn’t believe me, but followed my mad dash back home.

Frank            “Mama, Mama, I saw a hand!”

            “What on earth are you talking about?”

            “The ditch, with the dead dog, there’s something in it! I saw a hand! It reached up and clawed at the dirt!”

            My mother’s expression displayed doubt.

            “I promise, Mama, it’s there!”

            “Let’s cut across the back and get a closer look from Laura’s,” she said.

            Laura, my best friend, lived around the corner of the block. Our backyards intersected and her house faced the steep incline.

            Once at Laura’s, Mama explained the situation. Two women, three little girls, and Laura’s brother lined up across the yard. We watched the ditch.

            Nothing happened.

            Just as I began to question my sanity, the hand emerged. Frantically, it grabbed at the bushes above before lowering out of sight. We all screamed. As we held our collective breath in disbelief, up came the hand again. It clawed at the side of the ditch, then back down and disappeared. We all screamed again.

            While the grownups discussed explanations and what to do, Mrs. Spitler, an elderly lady, wandered by. She spent her days walking the neighborhood, carrying yellowed newspapers, and mumbling incoherently as she trudged along. Though harmless, she caused terror in the hearts of children, simply because she was different.

            As Mrs. Spitler neared the ditch, we watched. The old woman stopped. “What you doing down there?”

            No reply came.

            Mrs. Spitler went on her way.

ambulance            Though our mothers decided the hand didn’t belong to a creature, they still weren’t brave enough to delve into the mystery themselves. Mama had the brilliant idea to call Doyle, who lived in the house on the other side of the ditch.

            He agreed to investigate. Nervously, we waited in Laura’s front yard to see what he might discover.

            “Call an ambulance,” Doyle yelled.                                                                                                                                         

            We soon learned the hand belonged to an elderly gentleman. He’d stepped to the shoulder of the road as two cars met, and slipped down the incline, then couldn’t get up. Though still conscious, he didn’t know how long he’d been there. The ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital.

            My parents were so proud of me. If not for me, the man would have spent the night in the cold, hard ditch.

            But I couldn’t get the image of the hand out of my mind. On top of that, the old man had been lying on the dead Black Lab. I had to sleep in my parents’ bedroom for several nights.

            Thirty-five years later, in my mind’s eye, I can still see the hand. And it still gives me the creeps.

Bats in Our Belfry

Wrapped in my husband’s arm, I leaned my head against his shoulder as we watched a movie in our living room. Though the house was over 75 years old, it was new to us. So, for our first movie night, we’d drawn the drapes, popped popcorn and curled up on the couch.

Suddenly, something swooped through the darkened room.

 I gasped. “Was that a bird?”

 “No, I think it was a bat.”

 I shrieked and yanked the blanket over my head.  Shivers traveled up my spine. A bat? Surely, David was wrong. I didn’t want to watch, but I couldn’t stop myself either.

 David flipped on the light, and the bat circled the room.

 “What are you going to do?” I asked, because in my opinion, taking care of bats definitely falls in the BOY job category.  There was nothing on earth that would have moved me from the couch where I was now shaking under the blanket. 

 “Just stay under the blanket. I’ll take care of it.”

 He had that right, but a new fear rippled through me. You probably already know that bats travel by sonar at incredibly fast speeds, meaning they make noises which echo off objects. This means bats will move around you as long as you don’t move into their flight path. 

 Normally this would not be a problem, but my husband is 6 foot 6 inches tall and weighs over 300 pounds.  He pretty much blocks the path of anything – bat or otherwise.  The chances of him not moving into the bat’s flight path were not in his favor.

tennins racketDavid managed to get to the basement and find the ultimate bat fighting tool – a tennis racket.  When he returned, I peeked from under my blanket and saw the bat dive towards him.  Instinctively, David raised the racket just before coming face to face with the bat.  The bat struck the racket and fell to floor stunned.  My hero of a husband now made quick work of ridding the house of our unwelcomed guest.

 The next day, we talked to our neighbors and told them we’d had a bat the previous night. There response? “Oh, your first?”

 They proceeded to inform us that our turn of the Century homes, 14 Craftsmans in a two block area, all collected bats like some homes seem to collect snakes or lady bugs. Determining how they were getting in was a matter of trial, error, observation, and luck.

 Before we uncovered our bats way of entry, we had ten nocturnal visitors.  Since we closed up their path, four more have still managed to send us scurrying for the Bat Racket.

bat2I am well aware that bats provide a great service to the environment as bug consumers, and David tries very hard to practice bat relocation rather than bat-a-cide. (Not always possible when you pump a man as strong as him full of bat-induced adrenaline at two in the morning.) And I don’t mind if they live in my attic walls. I simply want them to stay out of my living space and not go bump in the night.

 Is that too much to ask?