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Where the wild things really are

Every morning as I walk half-asleep into the dark living room before sunrise to check the thermostat setting, I am startled by the cello case standing in front of me.

This hard case on wheels recently replaced a soft-style one, and the cellist in the family has taken to storing it upright – empty and partially opened – smack in the middle of the room. Since the actual cello rests in its own stand in the corner, the case could be stored somewhere else. But the question that has not yet been answered is, “Where?”

So there it stands, ominously intruder-like, scaring me to pieces every single morning until we can one day find an out-of-the-way spot for it – or I get used to it.

This reminds me of the dress form that came into our house some years back. It’s about 5 feet tall and headless with a padded torso on an iron base. It’s a decorative piece that can be used to display scarves, jewelry and such. Yet, in the dark, it looks nothing like the teen bedroom accessory it’s designed to be.

At first, the dog – being the brilliant canine he is – barked at it when he came upon it in the dark. Then he simply tried to ignore it, turning his head away as he approached it and keeping to the other side of the room. He wasn’t alone. One night, a young overnight house guest asked me to remove it from our daughter’s bedroom – lest their sleepover turn into a nightmare. And, no, leaving it outside the door in the hallway would not work, either.

At least our basement isn’t scary like the one in my first childhood home. That basement had two small rooms off the main area – everyone called them the old coal bin and fruit cellar – and while I could have avoided them, I did not. When I was feeling brave, I would open the creaky doors and peek inside.

I found the fruit cellar particularly frightening because there was a very small square hole in the floor for drainage, no doubt, but also for swallowing up small children. That’s what I believed, anyway.

One day, my older brother closed himself in that room and shouted out for me to come look for him in a few minutes. I waited and then, oh-so-cautiously, opened the door. Creeeeak. He was GONE! Nowhere in sight. Did he fall down that tiny drain? No, but he did manage to climb out the small window in the room and quickly run back inside to scare me for a second time.

It’s times like this when one has to wonder, “Where were the parents?”

Now I’m an adult being scared silly in the predawn hours by an empty cello case standing in the living room while the rest of my family sleeps. Perhaps we should find space for it in the hallway closet.

But, really, would that be any better? I open that closet door every morning to grab my coat. I can only handle so many surprises at that early hour, thank you.