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"The Hideout": A Christmas story from a young boy’s point of view

The stairway was my favorite hide-a-way spot in our two-story farmhouse, where I lived with Grammy and Pappy. From the living room it was two steps up, depress the thumb latch and swing the creaky four-panel door back against the wall … three pie shaped steps made a right tight turn, then it was a straight climb to the top. Off to the left was my bedroom — but no, you can’t, I wont’ let you see it! It’s my special corner of the world, please keep out!

The stairway. It’s where you could find me if you wanted to. I would go there often to pout, or maybe for a timeout or some other disciplinary measure. At time, I was made to sit on one of those twelve steps for an hour! Well, at least a good ten minutes anyway. I couldn’t sit still for any longer than that. Sometimes when I was in my room alone, I would hear a stranger’s voice echo through the heat duct; and being just a little nosy, I had to find out who and what the conversation was about, especially when it had to do with grownups. So I would make it my quest, a silent descent, gingerly side-stepping the creakiest steps, where only I knew them to be. There I would sit without so much as a slight fidget, right by the door, for as long as it took for the talk to end and the visitor to leave. Sometimes I think Grammy knew I was there anyway, though she never said. Each step in my hide-away had its own unique squeak. Running up and down them fast produced rare tones I knew I had heard somewhere before, maybe as part of a song. In my room at night, an oppressing dark would seep in through the cracks around the windows, surrounding my bed, scratching me; or so I thought. Thank goodness there was a night light outside my door, helping to declaw and fend off the oppressor.

Christmas morning … finally! A faint glimmer of light brightens my window, like a peel-away curtain letting light in one pane at a time … I was wide awake. I lay there for a good hour. Not to be called a liar though, I can say I didn’t look at my clock. Funny how you can be wide awake in a matter of seconds, like it’s the middle of the day, when you’re placed in a high expectation mode. I swung my feet around and onto the cold oak floor, all in one move, while hurriedly fumbling for my slippers. Out of my room and on to the steps. No need to be quiet now, it was Christmas morn! I wanted everyone in the house to feel as I did. O, those old steps, cupped in the middle like a hand-crafted Windsor chair seat, worn from many generations of families traveling up and down them. People who were not so different from us I suppose. But beware the pitfalls … as loose nails working their way out were always snagging your socks and slippers, if you didn’t watch your step and stay on your toes. So there I was at the door, bright and early on this Christmas morn … locked! Someone had locked the door knowing full well I would be down early. I vigorously shook the latch.

Suddenly I heard my Pappy say, “Bob, you need to wait, I’m having my coffee.” Wait? I hate that word, then and now! So I replied, “How long, what’s going on out there?” I could hear toys running — a train I think? So I waited … thinking about what Pappy had told me the night before.

“If you’re not good, Santa will put a lump of coal in your stocking, along with rabbit droppings!”

Grammy interjected. “Edgar, don’t tease Bobby, he knows better than that. Now set out the milk and cookies for Santa.”

Pappy snickered.

Suddenly I head, “OK Bob, you can come down now and see the tree.”

I saw the latch on the door lift, and heard that familiar creak of it swinging back to the wall … Wow! There was everything! The trimmed tree, presents, stockings … Wow! That tree was so beautiful with the lights, the tinsel and decorations. No other lights were on in the room, except for the tree. It was sure worth the wait. I rushed to my pile of presents — sat — and just gazed, taking it all in. I thought about how I was more than grateful, not only for gifts, but for Grammy and Pappy. They had chosen to rescue a small grandson after their daughter had died in her sleep and raise him as their own. There was no lump of coal in my stocking! But there was an orange, popcorn ball, comic books and other things to occupy my for the day. If I remember right, that’s the year I got my train set, which I still have by the way. I’ve kept it in its original box, along with other toys I’ve held onto throughout the years. Grammy and Pappy made sure I had the best Christmas ever that year. Sadly, Pappy wasn’t there for the next Christmas and Grammy’s not here now.

“Yeah, that’s my bedroom at the top of those stairs — and no, you can’t, I won’t, let you in. It’s my hideout!”

This piece was submitted by Bob Mitchley, of Cogan Station.

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