We moved through quite a few places when I was young. Out of the apartment in Clackamas, to a small two bedroom house somewhere in Southeast Portland. We did not stay long. My brother and I shared a room in this house. I was still three, or at least almost four. For some reason, I was rather scared of my closet and here is why.
Those of you who have grown up in Portland, especially in the 90’s and earlier, I bet you will remember the Tom Peterson’s ginormous head on 82nd and Foster Road. Anytime we got near this place, I had to hide my eyes. This was probably the scariest image in all of my childhood. I’ve told this to multiple people and they looked at me like I was crazy. And yes, they all knew of the head that I speak of. This head.
This has haunted me throughout my childhood, and one day while sleeping in my room, I happened to glance over at the dark closet and thought for an instant that I saw this head appear inside. I ran down the hallway, screaming to my parents room. I was hysterical, unable to explain what had happened. From then on, I was doing everything in my power to not sleep in my room. To sleep next to my parents.
While we are on the subject of childhood fears. Later on, when I was in kindergarten, my brother and I had shared a room in a new apartment. After my mom and dad split up and I had a step dad at this point (I’ll explain more on that later). My brother and I were laying in our beds for the night. I was trying to teach him the bunny song that I had learned in school that day. It was my favorite. Something about bunny hopping through the woods and knocking on some door and asking a man for help because someone was trying to shoot him, I don’t know. Suddenly I felt a pull at the end of my bed. I looked down and saw that my comforter was slowly sliding off. Next thing I knew, I was off screaming down the hallway again. I made it into the living room and ran into my mom, crying and explaining frantically that someone was pulling off my blanket in my room. My brother came screaming (unknowing why) behind me. I remember seeing her shirt stain with my tears as I hopelessly clutch at it, my tiny hands shaking. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my step dad bolt for our room.
My mom led us hiccuping, crying children back down the hallway. She feared someone, some guy, had climbed through our bedroom window, as that is what it sounded like I was trying to explain to her. We got back into the bedroom, and my dad was throwing the blankets around, expecting to catch some burglar hiding underneath my bed. But no one was there. No one was ever there. It was the blanket falling off my bed that made me picture some kind of ghoul, or skeleton, hiding out under my bed and pulling my blanket off. I had to explain this scenario a million times before they figured out it was just my imagination and all that happened was my blanket slipped. We were safe. There was no one there. But there was also no sleep for them for a long time after that. My brother and I took over their bed every single night.
Night after night, my brother and I would go to sleep in our room. But I would wake up in the middle of the night. Too scared to move. Crying until my mom or step dad came in to carry me to their bed.
My nightmares were pretty bad. They still are. I have come to accept them now as a part of me. But it was difficult for my mom especially. I especially remember a reoccurring dream. It never made sense to me for both what it meant, or why it was even frightening. It always started with me standing at the top of a grand staircase that was covered in red, casino like carpet. I’d start walking down the stairs slowly then pick up speed until basically I was flying down the stairs unsteadily and afraid I’d fall head first. By the time I reached the bottom, I would wake up. More like jolt awake. Like when you have those falling dreams. I never got to look around once I reached the bottom of the staircase. I never got to know where I was. I haven’t had that dream since I was young, but I remember always being confused by it.
At least I never wet the bed.