When I was five, we lived in a drafty, 1860’s, two story, white clapboard farmhouse insulated with wads of newsprint dating from the Civil War. It had a coal furnace to heat the water pumped into cast iron radiators for warming in winter and bathing year round, wafer thin linoleum covered floors, and a narrow pine brown painted staircase just inside the front door vestibule with nine stark steps heading straight up before snaking left for three more and leveling off to a thirteenth step at the top.
Facing directly ahead was the bedroom I shared with my two sisters. To the left, at the end of a hall papered in remnant rolls of Depression era patterns, was a bedroom for my three brothers. And at the right, flushed with the wall, was the entry to a closet containing a second, much smaller door leading to an exposed beams, no floorboards attic.
“Never, ever, under any circumstance open the door inside the closet at the top of the stairs,” my mom instructed us, “because, if you do, you’ll fall through the ceiling.” To be clear, she never added the words “and die” to the edict. So, I opened the door.
It wasn’t that I was a bad little girl, or even an overtly rebellious one. I simply had a ferocious curiosity which challenged every easy, accepted, purported, and fabricated reason given to blindly follow orders. And, anyhow, it was all Alice’s fault — she being Alice In Wonderland from the animated Disney film that Mom had taken us to see when it came to our town in 1951. Our subsequent incessant playing of the film’s score from a set of eight, six inch, 78 RPM Little Golden Records ensured I knew every word and melody, making it Alice who implanted the lyrics to Very Good Advice in my mind as a mantra, and Alice who told me to open the door and search for a lavender and white striped Cheshire cat in a garden of talking flowers.
But unlike Alice, I needed no key to unlock the door, nor mushroom to shrink myself for passing through, since even though the inner closet portal was half the size of a standard door, it wasn’t nearly as small as me.
… and more
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THE ABOVE ESSAY REPRESENTS AN EXCERPT FROM:
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t Know?
by Marguerite Quantaine © Copyright © 2019
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Never Ever Again © 9.29.17
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IMOGENE’S ELOISE : Inspired by a true story by Marguerite Quantaine
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Thank you Marguerite, its been a very long time since I’ve had an urge to read. Something tells me, you will soon be my favorite author.
That’s quite a compliment, Rickie. Thank you. I’ll try not to disappoint. By the way, my brother contacted me after reading this and said our father had yet another Nazi jacket, and a jade ring with a swastika on it that was given to him. He wore it until he found out what it symbolized. It was a difficult memory to reveal, especially since my father served in the Merchant Marines during WWII on what were considered to be unarmed tanker suicide missions, i.e., the refueling of battleships at sea during combat.
The excitement of the child to the pain of the mother are so evident. Beautifully written.
Thank you, Teryl. That’s the emotion that’s kept me carrying the story around all these years. Another reader wasn’t “sure about the jacket” — as if the similarity to our own national symbol during the Civil War and the one the world’s primary enemy adopted during WWII lacked clarity. It’s subtext, but still, perhaps too abstract. Perhaps I stumbled here.