When I was 7 years old, my family lived in what was called a subdivision. In ours, all the houses were built exactly alike-except for the shutters and the garage door which was painted a different color for each house. Ours was sky blue. I remember facing the house, the garage was on the right. My parents had a chest freezer in there and it normally held meat. In the winter, when it snowed, we would make snowballs and my Dad would put them in the freezer so we could have a snowball fight in July. As children, this was the greatest idea ever, until July came and we pulled out the snowballs to find them frozen hard as rocks. So we decided they were better to chew on than to be hit by.
There were three bedrooms in the house-one where my sister and I had bunk beds and a second bedroom for our brother. The third, of course, belonged to our parents.
Our kitchen was at the back side of the house with a door to the backyard. That yard was enclosed by a chain link fence. The house directly behind us was where my friend Jane lived. Jane was my age and we would take turns playing in our yard or hers. One day, Jane asked if I could sleep over. Our mothers gave their permission and I looked forward to my very first sleepover.
Every day beforehand, I would pack my tiny little bag and then unpack it and repeat the process the next day. My mother told me I only needed my pajamas and a change of clothes, I think, but I felt as though I would be away for a long time and I tried to pack accordingly. When the day finally came, however, I packed my pajamas, a change of clothes for the next day and my toothbrush. There were no gates at the back of the yards so when I was to go to Jane’s, my mother simply lifted me over the back fence. Jane and her mother were there to greet me and I felt extremely important. I was going on an adventure-even if it was just at the next house and only for one night.
That evening, Jane and I spent time coloring pictures. Her brother, whose name I don’t recall, was a couple of years older and very bossy. He informed us that we were not outlining our picturse properly and we would probably color outside the lines and make our pictures ugly. So Jane and I made a point of coloring outside the lines. We didn’t color anything the expected color and when we finished each picture, we giggled together and were quite proud of ourselves.
Supper at Jane’s house was much the same as my own home except for the vegetables. Jane’s family seemed to love eating raw vegetables while I was not as fond. After supper, we all sat in the living room and watched television. We could choose from Leave it to Beaver or Bonanza. There was also Candid Camera, Gunsmoke and The Lawrence Welk Show.
Finally, it was time for bed. Jane had two beds in her room and when we had climbed beneath the covers and her mother had said goodnight, she turned off the light and closed the door. Jane and I whispered to one another for what we thought was hours, but finally, it was quiet. She had fallen asleep. I lay in the bed listening as her parents went to their room. Then the house was still. The moon was bright that night and shone in the window over the bed where I lay on my back. I wanted to be happy I was having a sleepover, but I wasn’t. I missed my mother. I missed my bed and I missed the sound of my sister’s breathing as she slept. I was certain I wouldn’t sleep at all. I tried to close my eyes but that is when I heard it.
I heard a soft scraping and I knew it was coming from under my bed. I thought I might have made a mistake but there it was again. The softest sound of scraping. So soft it might have been missed, but I was there in the dark and the silence and I heard it. Very slowly, I pulled the covers up to my nose. I was afraid to take full breaths in case whatever it was would hear me. At first, I hoped it was a cat or a dog, but Jane had no pets. I thought it might be a mouse like when I had stayed at my Grandma Mary’s house. Then I was sure-SURE-someone was under my bed. I was sure that someone was just waiting for me to go to sleep so they could–what would they do? I had no idea. I only knew someone was under my bed and I wanted to go home.
It felt as though I lay that way for the rest of the night. The moon was there shining on me, but it gave no answers. I couldn’t just look under the bed. That someone hiding there might grab me. I knew that would happen, so I lay very still and pretended to be asleep.
When I next opened my eyes, the room was bright with sunshine. Jane was sitting on her bed calling my name. I was happy until I remembered about the someone under my bed. I still didn’t want to move, but Jane’s mother called us to come eat breakfast, so I slid out of the covers and put my feet on the floor waiting to be grabbed. But nothing happened. I pretended to drop my slippers so I could glance under the bed and nothing was there. I stood, took a deep breath and went off to the kitchen with Jane to eat our oatmeal and toast.
When we had finished and dressed for the day, Jane and her mother walked me to the fence where my mother lifted me over and put me down in my own yard. She reminded me to thank Jane and her mother for having me stay. Once in my own house, I told my mother it had been a good sleepover and they were very nice to me-but I didn’t think I wanted to sleep anywhere but in my own bed ever again.