Monsters in the Closet
When our two oldest boys were six and eight years old, they shared a bedroom. The small room featured a double closet. The sliding bypass doors, suspended from rollers, glided along a track at the top of the doorframe. Only one side of the closet was accessible at a time.
Our oldest son was a typical eight-year-old with many fears. He saw eerie faces frozen in the knotty pine paneling in our family room. He required his younger brother to escort him whenever he needed to go down the hall to the bathroom. Bedtime could easily become a standoff, and often did.
In the vivid imagination of our eldest, the dark space underneath his bed was the lair of something dreadful. Getting into bed at night required the speed and agility of an Olympic high jumper. In his mind, there was only a split second when he could escape the claws of the menace lurking in the darkness beneath the box springs. Once in bed, he felt safe and secure and slept soundly.
Then, out of nowhere, another dread reared its ugly head. Convinced that unspeakable monsters were hiding behind the double doors, his fearful attention shifted to the closet. When the adults in the house had retired, he felt the children had been carelessly abandoned. It was then, he believed, ghouls and goblins would emerge from the closet to do sinister deeds. This threat required constant vigilance. If the adults were insistent on being negligent, the children would have to stay awake.
Our six-year-old was easily persuaded by his older brother to stand guard with him. Their prime mode of monster repellant was noise; giggling was not enough. Fiendish shrieks were required, loud enough to fend off what lurked behind the sliding doors.
Being a reasonable man, I took a logical approach. I explained to our frightened children that there were no such things as monsters. This tack added to their perception of me as naïve, at best, maybe even stupid.
I tried a theological approach, reassuring them that God would protect them. Our oldest countered, “Why didn’t God protect Superman from kryptonite?” Being reasonable, I concluded, would not do.
After several sleep-deprived nights, Clare and I were in danger of become more monstrous than whatever our sons thought was in their closet. Late one night, I made a decision. If the children were convinced that monsters were really in the closet, who was I to dispute that contention? When Clare sees a cockroach or a mouse, nothing will do but to call the exterminator. When my children fear that a monster is in the closet, the varmints must be vanquished.
In the wee hours of the morning, the alarm was sounded.
“Daddy, Daddy, come quick.”
I stumbled into their room, gave them each a hug, and asked, “What made you afraid?” I knew before I asked; those pesky monsters in the closet again.
Our sons sat startled in their beds as I lifted the sliding closet doors off the track, placing one door under each of the twin beds. I turned on the light, leaving both sides of the closet fully exposed. I faced the closet and with all of the authority I could muster, I chastened the beasts, exhorting them to depart, serving notice that there was no longer any room for them under the bed. “Leave this house, and be gone forever!”
It was my first exorcism, but not my last. The monsters left and did not return. When the people we love are afraid, the only thing that helps is to take them seriously.Kirk H. Neely © January 2012