Life in Devon was great. My sister had gone off to college soon after I was adopted and when I was 10 my oldest brother left to join the Air Force. My mom was a single, working woman so my other brother and I were pretty much left to our own devices after school.
We had dogs. We always had dogs. An American Cocker Spaniel named Crush, a Beagle/terrier mix named Dolly, and for a brief time we had Muffin, also a mutt (coon hound mix). Sadly, two teenage boys drag racing on our dead-end street ran over Muffin. My brother and I were off with my legal father for visitation. While we were gone my mother was rushing Muffin to the vet. Dolly stood guard over Muffin and wouldn’t let anyone near her but my mom. The vet said due to all her injuries the kindest thing was to euthanize her. Due to the many broken bones and internal injuries we weren’t allowed to visit her before-hand as this would excite her and cause her pain.
My brother and I both had our chores to do. Mine were dog-based. I had to make sure they were fed and always had water, and I had to make sure to let them out first thing in the morning and after school. Where we lived, dogs ran loose. It was suburbia and dogs would run to the houses where their canine friends lived and pick them up for a run through the area. Our dogs knew how to push the screen door open and jump out for their runs, and then they’d come back and scratch until we let them back in. It wasn’t uncommon for our dogs to go off for hours. No one except Mrs. Blitz ever walked their dog on a leash. The only reason Mrs. Blitz walked her poodle, Mimi, on a leash was because her first dog used to run loose. One winter it ran out on the pond where we would ice skate, but it ran out when the ice wasn’t solid, fell through and drowned.
One Saturday morning I came downstairs to let the dogs out and get them fresh water and discovered that Crush had died in the night. She was very old at this point. I ran upstairs and told my mom and later my brother dug a grave and buried her. I immediately began trying to figure out how to get my mom to get us a new dog. There was a show, Run, Joe, Run on Saturday mornings about a German Shepherd Dog and that is what I wanted more than anything. One day I overheard my mom on the phone saying to someone “If I ever get another dog it’s going to be something small, like a Beagle”. Immediately I changed my strategy from asking for a GSD to a Beagle. I asked but she said no.
When Christmas came that year, Santa brought me a Beagle puppy named Happy Christmas III. I loved her. She became my BFF and I spent all my time playing with her. I spent hours training her in obedience and jumping, hand signals, etc. I had a friend, Jane, who was 3 years older. She had a new Basenji puppy named Tonya. We took our dogs on runs and walks together and created obstacle courses for them. We even went so far as to make a movie where Happy was injured and Tonya came to save her.
My other friends were Jean and Rosie. I liked both of them but for some reason they didn’t like each other. Jean had been my friend first. She lived around the corner and afterschool we’d watch Kimba the White Lion, Marine Boy, Speed Racer, Astro Boy and Ultra Man. On weekends we were totally into Gene London in the morning and Dr. Shock’s Horror Theater and Mad Theater on Channel 17. On Channel 48 we’d flip over for Double Chiller Theater. Jean was very smart and in 3rd grade when our elementary school divided us into two teams, Intermediate and Upper Team, Jean went to Intermediate which was more for kids who liked to work on their own.
Rosie was one of 7 kids, and they lived right next door. Originally the land had belonged to my mom but after she separated from my father she sold the lot. The first family to live there built the house. We came home to find a brown house with turquoise shutters and my mom was horrified. Luckily they must’ve changed their minds because soon it was turned into a white house with black shutters. The first family had two kids, Betsy and Vincent. Betsy was my age and Vincent was a year younger. Betsy was a good friend but their dad was transferred to Ohio soon after they moved in.
Rosie’s family was great. Her parents were the best parents I’ve seen to this day. They were devout Catholics, they never raised their voices (and as a mom of one who has, I can’t imagine having 7 kids and never doing it), and they were the kindest people. It was always fun over at their house because there were so many kids. When my dog Happy had a litter of puppies, their family took a female puppy they named Candy. Rosie and I had many adventures, sleep-overs, working on our Girl Scout badges, exploring in the woods and creek, etc.
One night I spent the night at their house. Like all little girls’ rooms in our area Rosie had twin beds in her room. There was nothing remarkable about that night compared to any of the others that we spent together. However, in the morning, Rosie was upset. She kept insisting that she’d awoken in the middle of the night to see a man standing between our beds. He was just standing there staring at me. I’d slept through the whole thing. Rosie was so upset and she told her parents who said she must have been dreaming. They even checked the doors and windows but no”thing was unlocked and nothing had been disturbed in the house. It never happened again despite many more times sleeping over.
Years later when I was a sophomore in college I lived on my sorority’s floor of a dorm. My roommate and I had bunk beds so that we could have more room. I was on the bottom bunk. One morning Eleanor told me that she’d awoken to find a man standing next to our beds staring down at me. She said she kept closing her eyes and praying. She cracked me up when she told me she’d try to say a “Hail Mary” but since neither of us were Catholic she didn’t know the words past the first line! It never happened again at college.
When I first moved to NYC I was living in an apartment off Central Park West. My college roommate had married into a prominent and very rich family there that owned a lot of real estate. She got me a rent-controlled apartment in a nice, doorman building on the Upper West Side. Shortly after I arrived in the city a relative arrived to stay with me for a few weeks. I didn’t have much furniture yet so my bed was just a mattress on the floor. One morning I woke up to a very spooked relative who told me he’d seen a man standing in the apartment in the middle of the night just staring at me. That was the last sighting of this mysterious man. I was married twice after that and then my daughter and I have lived together and she’s never seen this man.
A few times I even stood like an idiot in my apartment demanding that this person, spirit, whatever, show himself to me. He didn’t. Which is probably good because although I’m fine with ghosts on shows like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir if one appeared in front of me I’d probably faint. I am Christian, and I know that according to the Bible there shouldn’t be spirits popping up in my bedroom but if I believe our spirits live on after our flesh, then why couldn’t we pop in on folks to make sure they’re ok? I’m assuming that is what this man was doing because he never looked at the other person, he never did anything to me, he just stared.