Mama There's a Monster in my Closet

Mama There’s a Monster in my Closet


I remember gently getting up out of my bed, tiptoeing past my closet door and padding into the kitchen wearing my pajamas with the feet in them. You know, the old-fashioned ones with the little plastic dots on the bottoms of the feet. The dots were probably supposed to keep a little kid from slipping but they really had the opposite effect. You could more efficiently slide on linoleum with those dots.

Anyway, I would end up in the kitchen. Mama was either sitting at the table watching Johnny Carson or standing at the sink washing a dish.

“Mama there’s something in my closet.”

She’d turn, grab a kitchen towel and dry the suds off of her hands. “Oh Candy,” She’d say in her heavy German accent. There is nothing in your closet that can bother you! Let’s go look!”

Mama did the best she could, even when I was 4 or 5 I could see that clearly. She was mothering me to move me into the same reality she existed. She’d take my hand and we’d go and look inside of my closet and see nothing but clothes and board games. “See?” She would say, “There is nothing there!”

What Mama didn’t know was that her mere presence was enough to move us both into a reality where she was exactly and perfectly correct: There was not, and never could be anything in the closet to bother me if Mama was standing right there.

That’s not how it worked. But Mama didn’t know that I could tell. So it wouldn’t help to try to explain that.

So Mama would tuck me into bed and I’d ask her to leave the hallway light on. And she would say “Oh alright.” Because the hallway light worked pretty much the same as Mama’s presence. When it was on, the closet was just a closet.

But after a while, probably when she thought a little girl should have fallen back to sleep, Mama would turn the hallway light off and my stomach would clench up and I’d sigh to myself. That click was the movement to the world where whatever that thing in the closet was, could definitely come back. Why couldn’t the hallway light just stay on? What was such a big deal about that?

Sometimes I would slip out of bed and just go turn the light back on. But not most of the time, because it would just get turned off again soon anyway. Most of the time I would just lay there and try not to breathe. I knew that the thing in the closet fed on my fear so I tried not to be afraid. But I also could not lie to myself about being afraid. It was a vicious little story cycle that meant only a mild evening annoyance for my Mama, but it was a daily challenge for me.

I eventually learned that the best thing was to stand up to the unnamed whatever-it-was in the closet; to declare to it and to God my right to be and exist without its energetic assaults. And in the end I was victorious, even if I was left without a clear definition of what exactly was in my closet. Or why it was there, or why it scared me. Or why, for heaven’s sake, it needed my fear as its food.

I grew out of my fear. Or maybe I moved for much of the time into the reality where there really was nothing there. Either way, when I was 5, I made a promise to myself.

I promised myself that when I was a grown up, if I ever had children, I would do a different kind of mothering. I would not tell my child that there was nothing in the closet. I would remember. And I would know that my child could know and possibly see things that I could not.

So I would do something completely different.

I would help my childen stand up to the thing in the closet (or under the bed or in the corner or wherever the thing would be.) I would give my children tools and resources and ways to empower themselves and not deny their reality. I would help them be strong and fierce if necessary and be proud to defend their sacred place of sleep from unwanted presences!

And I would let them come into my bedroom to feel safe if they wanted. And I would let them leave the hallway light on. Even all night long if that made them feel safe.

And so I did.

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Copyright 2017 Candace Craw-Goldman at

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