© Copyright 2019 by Elizabeth Lloyd
Perceptions of the world in my small five-year old body were always much greater or much smaller than the truth. Play time outside was always a great adventure or exploration. Everything was a magnet of curiosity.
For several days talk swirled about the house of Minnesota and Aunt Dorothy’s. Possibly a trip to Minnesota. Many times, while sitting at my upstairs bedroom window, little kid eyes would take in views that seemed immense and ever extending. During those times I was sure could see Aunt Dorothy’s house and Minnesota. My mother assured me again and again that Aunt Dorothy’s and Minnesota could not be seen from my Oregon bedroom window. My perception of the distance between Minnesota and Oregon was very small.
A trip to the beach conversation between my parents, found me mesmerized at my bedroom window. Positive the ocean could be seen from my second story perch. My father assured me that what I was seeing was not the ocean. It was giant bubbling clouds in the sky, not the waves from the ocean. My perception of the vast ocean was very large.
Often bedtime was earlier than a child would prefer and almost torturous. One night after many drinks of water, and several “I need to go potty” bathroom trips, sleep was having a hard time finding me. The bedroom window was open just a crack. A light breeze was making its way through the bedroom along with glowing strands of silvery moonlight. The dancing curtain and giant full moon tempted me. Flipping back the covers of the bed, little bare feet quietly touched the floor. It was an expedition in sneaking. Any noise, small bump, creak of the floor, would send my mother’s voice scurrying up the stairs. Chasing me back into my bed. Bare feet tiptoed to the window. The moon was big, full and glowing.
Taking in the view from my bedroom window perch, long distorted shadows played across my room and the yard. Sitting at the window, a glace down the side of the house sent me into a shrieking panic. Monsters seemed to infiltrate my room at night.
The shrieking panic brought not just a voice up the stairs, but a whole person. My father suddenly standing in the bedroom doorway sent a wave of relief over me. He found me in bed. Covers up to my chin. He was trying hard to understand what had caused this panic. Pointing at the window, through sobs, all that kept coming out was “Giant lady bugs, giant lady bugs.” A series of multiple question from him took place. Followed by tearful, slurred, gulping answers from me. He eventually came to the understanding that when looking down the side of the house, what had been seen by five-year-old eyes, were giant lady bugs. Lady bugs the size of basketballs crawling up the side of the house trying to get in my room.
He reassured me many times there were not giant lady bugs crawling up the house. It was only the vines growing up the side of the house. Back in bed sleep was sporadic. The night was long. Even though he had promised me it was just vines, part of me was sure there really had been giant ladybugs crawling up the side of the house.
The next day, found me tired and grumpy. As soon as my feet hit the floor an inspection below my window found just vines. The inspection continued in the backyard. The vines more fully inspected in the bright sunshine. The vines had always been there. They just looked much different from the upstairs window in the full moons distorted dancing glow. Several times, in the bright comfort of daylight and from every angle, and several times from my bedroom window, the vines had been investigated. Each time day turned to dusk a little bit of fear would grab me. A window inspection of the wall would be done. To check for movement.
One particular sunny fall morning had been spent bouncing from one backyard discovery to another. A glance up found me on the very edge of the backyard. There were rules about how far my adventures could take me from the house. The boundary line was the edge of the yard in all directions. Sometimes curiosity and exploration would cause those rules to be pushed far back into my thoughts. The rules would make an appearance, and quickly fade away. The thing that needed to be seen would have a much greater lure.
An alley separated the backyards of the houses on each side of the block. Standing on the very edge of the boundary line, the rule whispered to me. My attention was fixated on a glittery spot across the alley. The sun had caught something, and the something was sparkling. The sparkly spot in the grass was calling to me. Curiosity pushed me to maneuver the entire edge of the backyard boundary line. In an attempt to get a better look. Navigational efforts proved moving away from the spot of the original discovery would cause the sparkle to disappear. What luck that I had been standing in the perfect spot. The lucky discovery was causing the boundary line rule to fade fast.
My mother would periodically come to check on me in the yard. Those security checks appeared to come at timed intervals. My internal clock almost had them memorized. My five-year old mind attempted to make some calculations. How many steps past the boundary line would have to be made to retrieve that wonderful sparkly thing? How long would it take me and when was the last time my mother had checked on me? The rule was almost completely lost from my thoughts now. Fifteen steps and my mother had just checked on me.
Glancing back at the house, no mother in sight, the rule attempted itself one last time. Stepping out into the alley, I held my breath and waited for a scolding. It did not come. The rule was completely gone now. Each step toward my destination brought reassurance that, yes, this treasure could indeed be retrieved.
Fifteen steps found me standing memorized over top of the glittery object. It was just about completely buried in long strands of grass. It would never have been noticed if the sun had not been reflecting perfectly off the silver ring that separated the cap from the can.
A past exploration was encompassed by a lesson that not all discoveries were treasure. Recently, I had discovered slugs. Slugs were not a treasure. If they touched your clothes, they would leave large ugly brown stains, that evidently would send my mother over the edge in the laundry room. The stains had long lasting durability, and a favorite pair of pants had been ruined. The slug discovery and ruined pants cause a lecture from my mother. Accompanied by a magic sugar container filled with salt. Apparently, salt was a powerful weapon in the slug battle. The lesson now found me nervous about sticking my hands into the grass. Slugs had taught me that I probably should not be sticking my hands into places without extensive inspection of the site.
Pulling long strands of grass aside, the site was examined for strange creatures, and for slugs. The treasure was a long round can. Slugs had also taught me that creatures loved to live on the dark side of treasure. Rolling the can around in the grass a little, all areas were examined before picking it up. The can was retrieved from the grass for a better inspection. Twisting and yanking the cap was pulled from the can. Under the cap was a spray nozzle. My mother had often used a can like this when cleaning. The spray nozzle device was not difficult to operate. Pushing on the spray nozzle, colorful liquid shot into the air. Wow! Entranced by the liquid the can was aimed at the blacktop ground. The spray nozzle was pushed again. A small, wet white colored spot appeared on the ground. My little brain was fascinated. It was like a crayon, only better. Crayons were one of my favorite things in the world. This liquid crayon was so much better. Aiming and pushing the nozzle would turn whatever it was pointed at, white. Grass, leaves, flowers, even dirt would turn white. A crayon couldn’t do that. It was coloring in three dimensions.
This liquid crayon required more testing, an additional pallet. Scanned the alley up and down for something more to test the white liquid on. It was determined that almost any material made a wonderful canvas for the white liquid crayon. Each backyard facing the alley was lined with one or two beautiful aluminum trash cans. All neatly lined up just begging for something more. Now any rules about boundary lines, and any thought of my mother’s time limit check had completely vanished.
Traveling far from my boundary line, an alley world exploration and its open canvas of cans called for creation. The cans were smooth, which made it easy to perfect my lines, dots, and hearts. For many weeks I had been practicing how to write my name and each can that received a beautiful new design was signed with pride. When each and every neighbor had a newly decorated can, the search for a new pallet began. There was no way to deny that the numerous bright white polka dots covering my mother’s car had not been my creation. A trail of white paint extending from my mother’s car out into the alley was not hard to follow. She soon realized that the decorated landscape had my name written all over it.
When my mother and the neighbors discovered my artwork, a strict punishment of confinement to my room had been enacted. Normally my room was not a bad place, it held many of my favorite things. Boxes of crayons, stacks of color books, and a record player with a mountain of forty-five singles that my father had purchased from a second hand store. “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head” and “How Much Is That Doggy in The Window” would play continuously. My room was a wonderful oasis on a cloudy, chilly, rainy day. On a beautiful, warm sunny day it was not the place to be. Outside was the place to be. Begrudgingly, a slow shuffled walk up the stairs to my room happened. Frustrated by my punishment and not wanting to be inside.
That was the day I discovered a real monster lurking in my room. At first my mother thought I was trying to avoid my sentence. There was no need to actually see the monster. The noises it was making was enough to send me hurling down the stairs three at a time. My mother had just come in the back door. Carrying a bucket of something. Probably to clean the polka dots off the car. We entered the kitchen at the same time. Standing breathless and panicked, fear gripping every inch of my small frame, I protested my sentence. Protesting because there was a monster in my room. My mother was now at the sink replacing the cleaning water. Still furious about her newly decorated car and all of the neighbors’ trashcans. She turned and gave me a look that said “Nice try.” She was telling me to get back to my room, when the shrieking and growling of the hideous monster started up again. It could be heard echoing through the upstairs.
The sound made me shutter, but at least it was confirmation. Confirmation that there were indeed monsters in my room. Something I had always known, but no one ever believed me. Now my mother had to believe me. She heard it too. It was quite for a minute, then my mothers’ eyes grew very big. If she was scared, I was terrified.
She set the bucket down in the sink and made her way to the closet. She slowly opened the door and grabbed a broom. When the growling and shrieking noise began again, I looked up at my mother. Her eyes were still big, and her grip on the broom tightened. Then she asked me if my bedroom door was shut. A light breeze through my room had a tendency to blow my bedroom door shut. “Yes, yes, I think so.” When I heard the noise, I ran.
My mother started for the stairs with the broom in her hand. My little brain freaked out. She was going to fight the monster with a broom! All by herself! She told me to stay in the kitchen. There was no way I was going to let my mother fight my monster all by herself. Even though she had told me to stay in the kitchen, I crept up the stairs after her.
Stopping outside my bedroom door, she pressed her head against the door to listen. The long, low gurgle of the monster could be heard. It made me cling to the wall and wish that I could crawl inside. Fear and panic caused all of my muscles to freeze and I could not move. Torn between wanting to run and not leaving my mother alone with a monster. I did not want my mother to go in there. Urgently expressing that wish to my mother in a hissing whisper, “No, no don’t go in there!” She looked at me with big eyes, her only response was “Ssshhhhh.” She slowly turned the door handle.
My mother slipped into my bedroom through a crack in the door barely big enough for the broom. It left me wondering how she did it. The door closed quickly behind her. Alone in the hallway, clinging to the wall, I wished I was brave. She should not be in there alone with the monster. She should not have been there at all. Fear penetrated my brain, my legs, my arms. I had been right about monsters in my room, because there was obviously a monster in my room. Possibly there could be monsters out in the hallway as well. Now I was in the hallway. Alone!
Then the howls, banging and crashing began. Cuss words penetrated my bedroom door. My mother was taking on a monster. She didn’t sound scared. Not at all. She sounded angry. Then the sounds coming from the monster took on a new tone. Was the monster scared? The monster sounded scared. That was when I decided, at age five, the women in my family were not to be messed with. They would take on a monster, armed with only a broom.
After what seemed like a very long time, and a lot of banging and cursing. My mother emerged from the bedroom. She somehow managed to get the door open while holding a very large bundle of some struggling, shrieking creature. My little mind assumed the large struggling ball, which she held far out in front of her, was all that was left of the monster. Armed with the broom she had beaten the monster to a pulp. She had reduced what was imagined as a giant, to one mass of wriggling fur, trying desperately to escape magic broom woman’s clutches.
The fur shrieked and struggled in my mothers’ hands all the way down the stairs and out the kitchen door. I was on her heals the entire way. Hoping that the monster did not have some kind of self-rejuvenating ability that would enable it to become big again. If it rejuvenated, we would be in big trouble. The fur sounded really mad, and my mother had left the magic broom upstairs.
Once outside I realized that the monster had been reduced to a very large and angry Siamese cat. The reduced monster’s legs were running before it hit the ground. Positive he was going to go tell all the other monsters that my bedroom was not the place to be, because my mother had a powerful monster beating weapon. A magic broom.
Once the monster had escaped, my mother told me to make sure that the screen door was shut tight. It must have been left ajar during the discovery of her newly decorated car and neighborhood. However, still being fearful that any new monsters might find my bedroom a challenge, my sentenced was reduced to house arrest, rather than confinement to my room. My mother went back to scrubbing the art off the old, baby blue four-door car. Eventually only slight traces of my talents remained.
From then on, I felt it was a horrible injustice when my mother used the weapon, the magic broom, to sweep the floor. Periodically on nights when I was sure a monster could be heard or seen, the broom would be retrieved and keep in my room. My mother would eventually come looking for it.
Sometime after that, a trip to Minnesota was made. It was not a visit but a permanent move. During the packing I lost track of the magic broom. Once settled in Minnesota, right next door to Aunt Dorothy’s, I looked for the magic broom. It could not be found. A new broom held a place in the hallway closet. It was my hope that it had the same magic powers as the old broom. It was discovered that a shadow giant lived above my mother’s bedroom door at night.
Disclaimer to cat lovers. My mother never actually hurt the cat.
Lessons learned from the adventure.
Sometimes when you believe in something, it has power. So, believe in yourself.
Women are brave and strong.
Never touch slugs. Not all discoveries are treasure.
Paint is awesome when used the right way.
Be careful what you sign.
Rules are important and there for a reason. However, discovery, exploration, curiosity and creativity can always pull one past the rules. Sometimes the greatest adventures happen fifteen steps past the boundary lines.