Children view the world in a very different way than adults. If you've ever read the picture book Shortcut by Donald Crews, or seen the movie Stand By Me (I mention the movie since I haven't read Stephen King's novella The Body upon which it is based), you know what I mean. When you experience a truly scary event as a child, it's like putting a pin in your life map. Whether or not it was earth-shattering, you view it with a somber seriousness, a memory you don't really kid about. Children don't have the world experience to put events into perspective - how serious was it? Was it really as terrifying as it seemed at that moment?
My scariest childhood memory doesn't have anything to do with bodies or close calls with trains, but I can tell you that when and after it happened, it was more serious to a 9 or 10 year old me than anything.
At the time, we were living in a rowhome (aka townhouse, houses that are attached on both sides to other houses). Our house was right next to the corner house. About halfway down across the street lived friends of our family. Their house was for sale. They were getting ready to move and my mom and younger sister and I had walked down from our house to visit. They didn't have any children my age, so I got bored and decided to go home.
On the way home, a man that I had never seen before came up to me. He asked me if I had ever been in the house that was for sale. I don't know if he had seen me come out of the house, but I said yes. He asked me how many bedrooms and bathrooms it had, and I told him. He asked me if I lived nearby. Now, at this moment, I was honestly thinking that he was trying to find out if I lived in a similar house so I knew what I was talking about, but a warning went off in my head and I just said, "Yeah, down there," and waved in the general direction of my house. He nodded and kept walking down the street. I ran to my end but did actually have the sense not to let him watch me go into my house. I think I just hung out outside for a while.
My mom and sister came home later and didn't mention any man coming to look at our friends' house, so I began to get scared. I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over to decide if I had given him too much information. That night, I listened to every little creak in the house and couldn't sleep.
I guess I did fall asleep eventually. When I woke up in the morning, I was still nervous, but it was a bright, sunny day, and nothing had happened during the night. I wondered if I had gotten myself too worked up. I went downstairs. Our stairs led right to the front door, so if you were coming down, you had a view out the little windows in the door. I stopped short on the stairs when I saw him.
The man from the day before was sitting on our front steps. Just sitting there. I ran to get my mom and I asked her if she knew who he was. She didn't. I remember her frowning and looking out the window but not going outside. Eventually, he got up and left.
We never saw him again, but I spent probably the next entire month of my life sick to my stomach with terror. I thought for sure that the guy was going to do something to us or to our friends down the street and I couldn't tell anyone what had happened because if someone got killed it would have been my fault. Try living with that on a 9 yr old conscience! Our friends moved soon after, and I was so relieved, but then I worried about the people who moved in. I didn't stop worrying until more than a year later when we also moved. WHEW!
This story just reminded me of another scary thing that happened when I was even younger. We lived in a big house, just my mom and my sisters and me (before the rowhome). The deck off of our kitchen was a full story from the ground, so it had a full flight of wooden steps to the ground. One night, I had to be maybe 5? 6? 7? I went to the kitchen in the dark to get something. I heard a creak on the deck stairs. I turned on the light and looked out the window in the kitchen door. A man was coming up the deck stairs in the dark. When he saw the light come on and my face look out of the curtain, he stopped, about halfway up the steps, waved at me, then turned and went back down the steps and then he was gone. Spooky!!!!
Do you have any scary childhood memories?