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A weekend in the Closet

A little light in the darkness

I love light. I hate the darkness. This might be a statement you would hear from most people. Unfortunately, my obsessiveness stems for one horrifying weekend I will never forget. My fear of darkness did not begin one month, one year, or even one decade ago. It began forty years ago in a small house in Massachusetts. I had taken my appreciation of light for granted and it had never been greater than it was at the end of that weekend in the winter of 1972.

Mom and dad were going away and I was staying with my grandparents for the weekend. The usual buzz and whirr of packing and leaving was all over the house and I was engrossed with only one thought. I am going to gammy and papa's house! My mom made one last call to them and then informed me it was time to go. My grandparents lived only two blocks away. I had walked back and forth to their house many times with my parents. This time though, they were going to drop me off on their way to the airport. I grabbed my bag with my weekend supplies of clothing, toys, and stuffed animals and we headed out the door to the car. Two minutes later my mom opened the door to the car and out I jumped onto the sidewalk. Still excited about the weekends events I ran up to my grandparents door. My mom yelled goodbye with a half sob in her voice as she realized my not missing her was trumped by the enthusiasm of being at papa's house. She got back in the car and moments later was driving down the rode with dad, headed to their own weekend adventure. Just as I was about to ring the doorbell, which I loved to do, I came upon a horrifying realization. I had left Bumbles at home. Bumbles was my favorite stuffed dog and my sleeping partner. I would not be able to sleep a wink without him. I dropped my bag on the porch and headed home. Nothing was going to keep me from getting bumbles and retrieve my weekend buddy from the empty house. The walk to my house was uneventful and in a moment I was at the back door crawling through the pet door. I went up the stairs and into my room. A quick search revealed no Bumbles and I began to panic. Only one location in my room was left to ransack so I headed to my closet. It was a typical wide closet with lots of hanging clothing I never really wore unless mom made me. It was very deep and filled with toys, books, and other four year old boys treasures. When you are only three feet tall, the closet door is huge and foreboding. Thank goodness the door was slightly ajar as it was impossible for me to turn they slippery knob when the door was closed. I opened the door just enough for me to slide in and begin my search for Bumbles. It was not very well lit which made my gropings even more labored and tedious. I traversed deeper into my hole when the unthinkable happened.

We have a larger than normal cat named Stinkers. I say she is larger than normal because our neighbors mistake her for a medium size dog on a regular basis. She even has her own door in the kitchen. As with all cats, she loves to rub herself against anything she can find in the house. As I traveled further into my closet in my desperate searchings for Bumbles, Stinkers made her hourly journey through my room and placed just enough pressure against my closet door to cause it to close and latch. The sudden darkness forced me to stop my crawling and peer back towards the door. I could not understand what happened to the light but knew I was not going to find Bumbles in this new environment. I fumbled my way around in a semi-circle and started meandering towards the closet door. I reached the door, pushed on it, and made the discovery Stinkers rubbing had caused. I pushed first, then hit it. I knocked hard against the door assuming someone would hear me post-haste and come rescue me. I few more knocks and I realized mom and dad were not home. They were on their way to the airport. Surely gammy or papa would soon make the discovery of my absence and assume I was here; in the closet, sitting in the dark, hoping for a quick liberation from my dark cell. I never realized how many noises there were are in an almost pitch black room no bigger than a computer box. At least thats how it seemed. I began to cry.

Gammy got up from her favorite chair next to the side window. The window that was always ordained with vases containing a myriad of colors and sizes of flowers. She walked to the large bow window facing the front lawn and peeked out. Hmmmmm, still not here? Didn't they say they were on their way? Papa nodded as he always did and went back to reading the paper. Gammy looked out a couple more windows before deciding to call my mom and find out what the delay was on their arrival. Gammy dialed mom's cell phone only to realize her phone was turned off. They were probably at the airport and no longer needed their phones until they arrived at their destination. Running out of options, Gammy went to the front door and opened it. There in the middle of the stoop sat a red backpack usable only by a small child spending the weekend at his grandparents. Gammy walked out into the front yard and began to call for me. I did not answer of course as my entrapment was all to real and unbreakable. The discovery of just a backpack and nothing else worried my gammy immediately and she called for papa. He dropped the paper and hurried to gammy's side. We must call the police. Obviously something has happened since I was missing but my backpack was present on their doorstep. The call was made. The search had begun.

What felt like hours had only been about ten minutes. Crying had made me tired but I was without my sleeping partner. I clearly was not going anywhere except further into the closet, so I re-entered my quest for Bumbles. I was unable to see anything in the small room. No light is scary, ominous, and relentless. Without hope for even a flicker of candlelight, I ran my fingers along the carpeted floor hoping to find anything that might comfort me. Metal matchbox cars, pieces of an erector set, and a few scattered legos was all I could find on my first pass. Still weeping softly due to my predicament, I could not longer support my short arms I was using to crawl with and succumbed to sleep. I am not sure how long I slept since I had no clock, no light, and no frame of reference but when I awoke it was still almost pitch black and I was still locked in a closet. From the very top of the door I could see a small band of light sneaking through where the corner met the frame. It was not enough to help me in any way but there it was. A flicker that told me the entire world was not in a state of perpetual darkness. That light did exist and therefore, hope. Perhaps to an adult who was trapped in a similar situation, a mere few hours would not be worthy of panic and tears. I was only 4. I was alone for the first time. I was encompassed in darkness and I did not have my favorite stuffed animal Bumbles. I was scared.

The policed arrived in less than twenty minutes and began questioning my grandparents and the neighbors. The backpack was meticulously scoured through but no evidence to my whereabouts was found. The search then spread to the closest neighborhoods. Roads were closed Fire engines with throngs of firemen began canvassing every wooded, watered, and winding area that surrounded my grandparents house. Still unable to reach my mom and dad, my grandparents held eachother hoping for my soon safe recovery. It is amazing what happens when a small child is reported missing. What was a day of light and hope quickly becomes darkness and dismay. It might be sunny and bright but the hearts of all affected become dark and worrisome. The hope of finding me is on a time limit as the sun sets and night time appears on the horizon. No matter how many persons are hunting for me, its the access to light versus the debilitating darkness that becomes the overshadowing cloud. They continue to search.
With nothing else to do but sleep, I wander in and out of consciousness. Every direction I look into yields nothing but blackness. I now hate the dark. It could be day or night. I would not know except for the glimmer of light coming through the top right corner of the door. It must be daytime. I began staring at the corner. I was wondering what light would be like again. I wanted to find my dog. I wanted to hold my favorite stuffed animal, close my eyes, sleep away the time I was imprisoned in the closet, and be rescued. I start to sob and call out to my mom and dad. Maybe they know I am missing and came home. Maybe my mom remembered she forgot to pack Bumbles and knows I would come home for him. Maybe my grandparents are trying to get in the house and notice the key is missing. All kinds of ideas run through my head but none of them comes to fruition as I lay there on my back staring up at the small light in the corner of the closet door. I never knew that such a small amount of light could be so comforting. The nightlight in the other corner of my room now seemed as bright as a lighthouse compared to this twinkle. I called out to my mom again. She did not answer me. She did not come. She is not looking for me. I am not sure which is worse, the darkness of my prison, or the darkness of the thought of my mom not worried sick about me and not searching for me.

Twenty-four hours and still not found. My parents have been notified and have made arrangements to return on the next flight available. My grandparents had not slept for as long. My gammy sits worried on the couch with papa next to her. She has the useless backpack sitting next to her with most of the contents scattered on the floor in front of her. As she sits there looking at the display of stuffed animals I had brought along, she notices something. There is no way it could not be here so she starts looking. The darkness that had found her heart and soul in my dissapearance was beginning to rescind. After ten minutes of looking she found the lead detective responsible for my recovery and informed him that my favorite stuffed animal, Bumbles, was not among the belongings in the backpack. The detective looked puzzled at my gammy but she kept talking. He never goes anywhere without it. We found the backpack closed on the front porch. There is no way his sleeping buddy would be missing unless it was never packed in the first place. Phone calls are made. I have not been found anywhere. Soon after, papa, gammy, and a few police officers are headed to my house. The search would soon be over.

How long I was crawling around and laying there is beyond my abilities to tell. Every sound the world had to offer was in that room. I cried, sobbed, wept, and then cried again as the blackness of the small room gave me no mercy. Even staring at the pinhole of light at the top of the door gave me no relief as so much time had passed by. I knew someone would come eventually. Mom and dad were just going away for the weekend. I was not going to die in this pitiless room of no light. As each thought permeated my senses though, only one trumped them all. I wanted to be able to see. Feeling around in the dark and knowing what was there was not enough. I wanted to be able to see. I wanted to be able to know what was next to me. Most of all, I no longer wanted to be alone. I missed my mom and dad. I missed my Bumbles. I knew the noises would end if there was light. I wanted that door opened so much it became my only thought. Even the light of the night sky would be better than the blackness of this coffin. The room with no windows. I crawled to the door. I began to beat on it with my fists. I would make them hear me! I wanted out of this tomb more than anything, even Bumbles. I yelled for my mom. I laid back down and started kicking the door. I cried out for the darkness to end and the light to find me.

Upon reaching my house, gammy, papa, and the few police officers accompanying them walked around to the back door where the pet door was. My gammy reached down and revealed the spare key under the welcome mat. They walked into the kitchen and heard some kind of pounding somewhere in the house. As they reached the stairwell they could hear screams, yells, kicking, and sobbing. It became painfully apparent I was somewhere in the house and finding me was paramount to anything else in their lives. Up the stairs they rose still hearing the pounding and the crying of a very distraught child. It did not take them long to find me. The door swung open, the light enveloped me, and the darkness was finally over. My gammy reached down and picked me up from my small prison. I cried tears of happiness at being found. I smiled at the light coming through the bedroom window. I never wanted to be in the dark again. My heart lept even more when I saw a small foot around the corner of the curtain. There in the window, with the sun shining down on its head, was my best friend Bumbles. He never was in the closet. I had been rescued. The pinhole of light in the corner of my closet was the hope I held in my darkened heart til I had been rescued. Finally the darkness was gone. I appreciated the light now more than ever. My time in the closet was the longest thirty hours of my life. I love light. I hate the darkness.

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