Forestdale, the birth and death of my security, has been my family home since the late sixteen hundreds when three brothers came from the ironworks in Lynn, just south of Boston, Massachusetts. They weren’t the first to arrive in Sandwich, the pretty village at the head of Cape Cod. But they were most likely the first to ask Plymouth, the mother town of Cape Cod, for permission to settle and to cultivate the land just south of that town and call it Greenville. Here some ancestor built the house now lived in by my Great Grandmother Fisher. As their families grew, they added on to what would be called the “new part”. Here I live with my three sisters, the big girls – Nancy and Doris who ride a bus each day too school – and the baby – Edith. I see her on the table, waving and cooing as Mother powders her, lifts her, and puts her in her crib. Daddy is somewhere called “Down south.”
I’m in bed, and beyond the kerosene lamp, the room is dark. But Mother is here, folding my hands and fingers into a steeple, to hear my prayer of
Now I lay me down to sleep
I Pray the Lord my Soul to Keep
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I add countless God Blesses to keep Mother with me but at last, I have to finish with “Make me a good girl.”
Mother tucks my blanket under my mattress, kisses me on the forehead, picks up the lantern, and leaves me in the dark. I am two and hate to see her leave because I know what comes next: streaking out of the attic through a hole into the hallway, bats flutter around the bedroom I share with my older sisters. What a chit-chit-chit sound they make, their wings whirring. I hide my head under the blanket, fearing those little creatures will fasten their claws in my hair, as we all call for help. I peek out and see Nanna, my grandmother, in her green mobcap and long cotton dress as she waves a dust mop at the bats, saying “shoo, shoo”. The pests fly out the window. She leaves us alone again in the dark to the creaky sounds and musty smell of a very old house.
No one tells me they are gentle creatures. They are simply part of a dark world with shapes and shadows ready to pounce and frighten me. My fragile security has been shattered, not to return until morning comes with its bright sun and warmth.
I like what it is saying, but on its own, it feels incomplete, it’s mmissing its context – how it relates to you; your life.
We lived in our Great-Gramma’s house. It was old when the boys in Blue marched south to fight those in Grey, smells of rotting wood, mildew and mold. At night bats streaked out of the attic. They flapped and fluttered through our room as we cowered under our covers. Nanna came in with her dust mop and shooed them out the window for their midnight hunt. We slept and never know when they returned to their attic roost.