April in the Wenatchee valley
is the beginning of warm dry weather when the fruit trees dress in fragrant pink and white blossoms and the intense heat
of summer is but one short month away. One sunshine flooded April morning I hadn't taken the school bus - I don't remember
why. Mommy and I were alone in the house. She was going to take me to school on her way to work, a big treat. As Mommy and
I started out the door she said, "I think you need a coat."
I was wearing my favorite stiffly starched,
full-skirted, short sleeved voile dress with the wide white collar and blue diamond pattern that I had ironed the evening
before. And although there was the small fresh chill of early morning, I knew
the day would soon be very warm.
Trying to control the tremolo in my voice,
I said, as casually as I could, "It's really warm, Mommy." I didn’t dare let
her see the fear lurking in the depths of my blue eyes.
"I still think you need a coat. Now, go downstairs
and get one."
"Don't argue with me! I said go get your
"Will you come with me?" I asked, with
a tiny timid smile. (I was not my mother’s favorite child, but we'd had such a rare good morning together. I thought
she just might.)
My small reluctant feet dragged going down
that steep dark tunnel of stairs. There never was a light over them, not even a bare bulb, and a deep stairway-wide shelf
over the doorway always made it shadowy and dark. When I reached the basement door, I turned back and pleaded, "Won't you
please come with me?"
"No! I told you, NO! Now stop this nonsense. Hurry up or we'll be late."
I opened the door and ran as fast as I could
across that dark first room. I tore through those hated leaf patterned curtains, turned the corner without slowing, and pushed
aside the closet curtains. I was in the closet. My trembling hand was clenching the sleeve of my short
white waffle weave coat. My back pressed into the other garments hanging there, and wire hangers were jabbing into my head.
My heart was hammering in my chest. I didn't seem to be able to breathe. I heard a strange noise. It was me. I was screaming
in helpless terror, and in the screaming I was begging my Mommy to come get me, to come save me. "Please, Mommy. Oh, please
Mommy, P L E A S E."
I don't know how long I stood, or cowered,
frozen in that closet. It couldn't have been the eternity it seemed. I finally realized there wouldn't be any rescue. I knew
that Mom had to have heard my terror filled cries. I don’t know why she left me there alone, but I did understad that
there wasn’t anyone to rely on but myself.
I forced myself out of the closet, batting
aside the hated leaf patterned curtains I raced out of my room; I flew through that dark and gloomy room, passed the glinting
jars and cans, fled out the door, and up the stairs, all the while hugging that hateful white coat. Nothing was said except,
"You left the door open, now go back down and shut it." I walked back down those stairs and softly shut the door on the
secret horror that lay beyond.
Nothing was said as my Mother drove me to
Nothing was ever said about that morning.
I am sure my parents never knew I refused to be alone in the basement, never realized I was terrified of it. They would have
never dreamt that a family treat was the root cause of fear. This was not a well thought out learning
I grew up that sunny April morning. It was
a very private internal growing up. I never again avoided being alone in the basement, and if I caught myself lying there
with my fearful eyes watching those moving curtains, I resolutely closed them. I never again ran like the wind when it was
my turn to go out in the starry, moon-bright night to take the garbage to the burn barrel, out into the shadowy dark area
enclosed by tall swaying hedges at the very back of our property. I was afraid, clear down to my toes afraid, but only God
and I knew.
Many years later, I read Franklin Delano
Roosevelt’s famous, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." By then I had learned it for myself