As with many childhoods, mine was fraught with the fear and uncertainty that comes from being forced to sleep in a dark bedroom. How dare my parents! Monsters undoubtedly lived under my bed and in the closet. They lurked outside my door and leered in the opened window, waiting for their chance to get me. It’s a wonder I survived. I’m sure I almost died of fright, more than once.
One monster has forever haunted my mind: The Smoking Shadow Man. He appeared to the seven-year-old me on a weekend I spent at my father’s house, late at night after the house was quiet. My bedroom door was left open and the nightlight in the hallway cast long shadows. I awoke disoriented and sat up in the bed trying to remember where I was. Out in the hallway I saw movement. A man-shaped shadow the size of Frankenstein’s monster appeared on the wall outside my door. I think he groaned. Then I saw smoke! Yes, smoke, floated through the doorway. Was the house on fire?
I wanted to scream and call out to my father to rescue me, but instead I covered my head and closed my eyes, confident my blanket fortress would protect me from the evil. If Smoking Shadow Man couldn’t see me, then he couldn’t get me. I still use this logic today. Never let your arms or legs hang over the edge of the bed or outside the covers. The covers are a cocoon of protection that cannot be breached.
Smoking Shadow Man slinked away while I fearlessly cowered under the covers. I had heroically fought off another beast of darkness, unscathed. When I awoke the next morning, to my childish delight, the house had not burned down.
To this day, Smoking Shadow Man remains a mystery. Much like Sasquatch and Yeti, no actual proof of his existence has been found, and he continues to elude capture. Perhaps he was a figment of my imagination, a manifestation of my naïve hope that all the smokers in my family would stop, lest they face certain death.
These days I hide from, I mean fight off, different monsters like middle age, death, a mortgage payment, yard work, frizzy hair, and that never-ending desire for fatty meats and fried food. The monsters have changed, but the desire to seek solace in the safety of my blankets and sleep with the light on still seems like a practical and perfectly adult way to evade the monsters. The next time your monsters get too close, grab your blankie.
Stay tuned for another pointless installment of Childish Memories: I Curse More Than You Do!