I wanted to play in the barn where Daddy and my brother were milking cows, but nighttime darkness held our farmyard in its grip. Closing the backdoor of our farmhouse, I found my sister Betty and demanded, “I want you to take me to the barn.”
My thirteen-year-old sister looked up from a comic book and answered in a huff, “You’re eight years old. Go to the barn by yourself and quit being such a big baby!”
I returned to the backdoor again. The yard was very dark, even with the yard light turned on, a single light bulb on top of a pole between the barn and house. Freshly fallen snowflakes sparkled in its light. A shadow moved. Panic made me freeze in place and wonder, “Is that a wild animal? Will it attack and kill me if I go out there?”
Common sense made me reason, there weren’t wild animals in our yard during the day. Then I realized the moving shadow was just a tree branch swaying in the wind. I really, really wanted to be in the barn! Throwing all caution to the wind, I ran as fast as I could, screaming all the way to the barn’s entryway, the milk house.
I have never found darkness to be scary inside of a house at night. Even as a small child, I could fearlessly wander through night-darkened rooms. As dark as the night sky can be, there is always some ambient light from the stars, moon, or some other source.
It’s surprising I retained this one area of fearlessness, because my brother Billy liked to scare me. I had to walk past his bedroom to get to mine. On more than one night, as I crept silently along the wooden-floored hallway, his bedroom door would be ajar, and out of the dark room came the most terrifying sound of a snarling, starving beast. My scream and the slam of my bedroom door was followed by wicked chuckles.
At age seventy, I still have a fear of being outside in the dark. If someone is with me, I’m not afraid. Perhaps it’s because I’m convinced the beast will eat my companion first, and then being full, won’t bother me.
Unlike today, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, there were very few deer roaming our countryside. A bear sighting was unheard of.
Now, it is common-place to see both bear and deer. These animals have walked through my yard during daylight hours as if they owned the place. My reluctance to take the garbage cart out to the road after sunset has increased. There are too many dark shadows and twigs snapping in the nearby underbrush.
Several nights ago, I was making my way upstairs to bed while the clock in the living room chimed eleven-forty-five. As is my custom, I had all the lights out because I felt safe and secure. A nightlight in the dining room, another one at the foot of the stairs plus the night sky gave me plenty of guidance, or so I thought.
My toe caught on a misplaced step stool in the shadows and I fell. There are moments in life when time slows down. It seemed to me that there were at least ten minutes between my toe stub and the landing. The glass of water I had been carrying fell and flooded the cold, hard floor.
Shocked, I clambered back to my feet. After wiping up the water, I turned on the stairway light and slowly crept up the steps to my room. While sitting on the bed, I rubbed a bumped knee as I morosely pondered what had happened and how I needed to stop walking in the dark.
When I talked to my daughter the next day, I confided what had happened and concluded, “Being an aging widow and living alone is like walking in the dark. You don’t know what’s coming, or whether you will be able to handle it.”