Who were the monsters that you believed in as a kid? Or rather, where did they hide and how could they get you?
For my son and I, they must be different.
When I was a kid, I was concerned about monsters in my closet, under my bed, and in the basement. I don’t remember the monsters having a particular form or face, nothing I could describe anyway. If pressed, I’d have to say they were more of a force, a cold, evil air. And I don’t ever recall asking my parents to check my room for monsters, because I had my own methods of protecting myself from the beings that lurked in the dark.
To keep the monsters from coming out of my closet at night, I piled the decorative pillows from my bed in front of my bi-fold closet doors. Somehow, I believed, the pillows would be just heavy enough to stop anything residing inside from pushing its way outside. And so, any monsters who had hunkered down in my closet hoping to attack me during the night would be trapped there until dawn when I made my bed and removed the pillows. They wouldn’t dare stagger out by the light of day.
To avoid the cold and brittle hands of the monsters under my bed, the ones who were surely waiting to reach out and clasp their boney fingers around my ankles, I perfected a gymnastics move worthy of an Olympic gold. I’d turn out the light by the switch near my bedroom door, take three running steps then leap, eyes closed and arms outstrecthed onto my bed. One time I leapt so high and so far that I actually jumped over my bed entirely, landing in a heap on the floor on the other side. And then I had to scramble to pick myself up off the floor in the dark, and get back into bed before I could be dragged into that small dark space where the monsters hid.
I had, of course, a backup means of protecting myself in case that wall of pillows failed. In case one of the monsters was strong enough to push their way out of the closet after all. I slept with my entire body, head and all, under the covers, the edges held secure around my face by the weight of my head. And while I might suffocate and die from breathing in my own exhalations all night long, at least my death would not be at the hands of a monster lurching out of my closet or inching his way out from under my bed.
Beasts in the basement I simply outran. I hated the basement, even when it was finished with carpeting, lighting, and comfortable furniture. I could manage the basement just fine if I was playing down there, or watching TV, otherwise distracted. But I knew the moment I started up those basement steps that whatever hid down there would come after me and pull me backwards unless I ran up those steps at the speed of light. Luckily, I always made a successful escape, emerging from the basement in one piece, but fairly out of breath.
And dare I admit that I still, to this day, find myself, on occasion, running up the basement steps, or up the stairs to the 2nd floor of my house at night. When the lights behind me are turned off, THAT’S when the monsters come out.
And while I am content to sleep with my head outside the covers, and without pillows (or anything else, for that matter) piled in front of my closet door, I cannot sleep unless my bedroom door is firmly shut. I cannot comfortably nap anywhere besides my bed either, if I am home alone. The family room is too large a space, the kitchen and hallways opening off it might let in an army of monsters while I rest. But my bedroom, with the door shut, is a safe fortress.
The monsters that occasionally haunt my son are those he sees on TV. Mostly vampires, witches, werewolves, mummies, and other creatures (The Creeper!) that he’s seen on Scooby Doo.
Interestingly enough, these monsters don’t haunt his closet or hide under his bed. Mostly, he believes, they live in haunted castles or creepy farmhouses, and luckily, there aren’t any of those in our neighborhood. But my son sleeps with a few lights on and, to my chagrin, he prefers to sleep with his bedroom door OPEN! Doesn’t he know, I wonder, that monsters can slip in much easier when they don’t have to turn the door knob? I cannot, of course, point this most obvious and important fact out to him. And so, after he falls asleep, I turn out his lights and shut both his bedroom door, and mine.