Discover more from Long Ago & Far Away
Recently, a fellow Substacker, wrote a fiction episode that triggered a flash of memory which I will share as my contribution to the season. You may have to be a child of the 60s to understand—but, here goes.
In 1969, my mother’s parents moved from their cramped urban house in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, to the suburbs.
The inner city home Mom had grown up in sat on a street corner anchoring a row of brick duplexes. It had a tiny kitchen, a breakfast nook, dark, thick molding, a steep staircase, and a basement with a walkout into a postage stamp yard where Mom-mom grew tea roses over an arbor.
In my mother’s old bedroom, where I slept on my summer visits, a paneled door led to the attic stairs.
When the house lights went out, that door would seem to glow, and one could excuse a seven-year-old’s imagination from seeing ghostly white shades moving as if through the wood.
The corner streetlight changed red, yellow, and green all night long, a light-show reflecting off the floral-papered walls. Every few minutes, the headlights of passing cars rushed across the ceiling.
For hours, I would lie awake in that room, scared to close my eyes lest something slip down from the attic.
I loved that house.
When I first saw the suburban house, I was crestfallen. It was not more than a few years old, huge, with wall-to-wall carpet, hollow-core doors, windows in every wall opening to green manicured lawns.
The first night my family visited the new house, I was given a guest room to myself. The room was large and sunny, bright, cheerful and plain.
Night fell and we each went to our assigned sleeping quarters. I was alone in this dark, silent chamber, no flashing lights, no attic stairs.
After dawn, I awoke to streaming sunshine and my vision filled with the image of Barnabas Collins, the famous 1960s TV vampire. Fangs out, his black eyes glared holes into mine. An index finger with a monstrous gold and black ring pointed directly at me.
My response was reasonable. “Moooooommmm!”
A few seconds passed and first Mom, then Dad, then Mom-mom burst in to find me sitting up in the bed, horror on my face, pointing in the direction from which they had all just entered.
In the confusion, I somehow managed to say, “the dooooorrrr!”
One of them thought to look behind the offending object. The three of them were now confronted with a large poster of the vampire filling the back of the innocent, hollow-core.
Y’all this was no Johnny Depp Barnabas Collins, this was Jonathan Frid, and looked something like this:
One of my adult avengers ripped the poster down in a hurry and all pounding hearts returned to normal, but the episode became a much repeated tale in the repertoire of family stories told around Thanksgiving dinners and winter firesides.
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