Lying on my back, bedspread pulled up to my chin, I stared at the curtains framing my bedroom window. The ballerinas that adorned them were dressed in pink and white, positioned in various poses. As I watched, one of them moved, bending over gracefully to touch the tip of her pink slipper. This wasn’t the first time she danced in front of me while I fell asleep.
Photo credit: Alexandre Tsuchiya
I loved to let my imagination roam. I loved fairy tales and passed a lot of time imagining that I was Cinderella in a beautiful, pale blue ball gown being swept around the dance floor by my handsome prince. I pored over well-known stories like Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel. I especially loved Hansel and Gretel and despite the wicked witch, wished I could be with them in that gingerbread house adorned with tantalizing confectioneries.
Photo credit: Šárka Jonášová
I often preferred the imaginary world to the real one. There, I could do anything, be anything, but still feel safe. Bath towel fastened with a safety pin and hanging full length down my back, I was Superman. In those days, we didn’t think women could be superheroes. Jumping off the couch, cape billowing behind me, I soared through the air, arms outstretched.
I also had strange experiences, two which are etched in my memory. I was five years old, and it was a hot summer day, so hot that all I could do was sit on the front step of our split-level house and stare at the road fifty feet away. I remember holding my head in my hands, my tank top sticking to my skin. I was thirsty and felt a bit weak but I didn’t want to move. It was easier to stay seated although it would surely have been cooler indoors.
As I became hotter and more uncomfortable, I heard the distant sound of music coming from down the road. At first I couldn’t see anything, but as the music got louder, a marching brass band came into view. All of the musicians wore black pants with burgundy stripes up the legs. Their black jackets were trimmed with gold shoulder epaulettes that matched the gold tassels on their tall black hats.
The whole scene was a bit unusual because although the music was loud and clear, all of the musicians were surrounded by a shimmering haze, almost as though they were being enveloped by the intense heat rising from the pavement. To add to the bizarre scene, Ronald McDonald was bringing up the rear, marching in an exaggerated motion, a huge grin on his face. He too shimmered in the hot afternoon sun. As the band passed and Ronald McDonald drew closer, I saw that he was scooping candy from his huge pockets and throwing it into the air.
Not one to miss out, I jumped up from the doorstep and ran as far as the ditch. Ronald McDonald saw me and threw something in my direction. I didn’t grab for it right away. Instead, I waited and watched as everyone moved on, disappearing over the hill. Only then did I bend down and pick up a piece of Dubble Bubble bubblegum. I ran back to the doorstep where I sat down and peeled off the yellow wrapper. As I popped the pink gum into my mouth, I basked in my good fortune.
That same summer, I was playing with my oldest brother, Andrew, and a few of the local kids in the narrow strip of woods that separated my parents’ giftshop from Mr. and Mrs. Thorne’s property. The Thornes were a retired American couple who seemed ancient to me. I didn’t know them, but to we children, Mr. Thorne had a status of mythical proportions: the mean old neighbor to avoid at all costs.
My father operated a small pony ride close to the giftshop, and from time to time, the ponies would escape and end up in Mr. Thorne’s yard. My brothers, who were only nine and ten at the time, were in charge of the rides, so youthful neglect was likely the reason. One day, I remember seeing Mr. Thorne walking up the road, leading Cross and Mayflower, the two ponies who worked the pony ride. He didn’t look happy, and I took off running.
As we ran through the woods, daring one another to go closer to the Thornes’ property, we suddenly froze. There in front of us, leaning against a cane, was an old man dressed in a tuxedo with a black top hat, shoes and cane. What startled me most was that the man was wearing a white mask which slightly resembled the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, only a scarier, ghost-like version.
The old man looked at us and in a high-pitched, quivering voice said, “You kids stay out of my woods.” In a flash, we were running for our lives. The other kids took off down the road in the direction of their homes while Andrew and I ran at top speed back to our house. At supper that night, we reported our terrifying encounter, and I remember my father saying, “It was likely Mr. Thorne trying to scare you away. Stay out of that section of the woods.”
Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez
Years later, I asked Andrew if he remembered what happened. He swore he didn’t. I couldn’t believe he would forget something like that. “I think you’re remembering a dream," he said.
Dreams? Childhood fantasies? Reality? I'd love to know.