The Hidey-Hole Secret Room for Kids

It was a glorious summer day with the sun shining brightly in a clear, blue sky. My cousin Abby and I were playing in a creek bed. We were six years old. The trickle of water that flowed gently over the smooth, round stones felt good against my bare feet. Birds chittered and chirped and the sound of faraway voices were merely a tinkle on the breeze. As long as our parents were “over there somewhere” they wouldn’t know that we were in the creek bed.

Suddenly a cloud passed over the sun, darkening it. The air took on an ominous heaviness. Abby and I looked up with foreboding. It was her father standing on the ridge up over our heads glowering down at us. Uncle Henry towered over the other adults and he stood at the front of the pack. My heart took off running though my feet were glued to the spot. Uh oh. We were in trouble again.

I grabbed Abby’s arm. “Let’s run!”

We ran about two yards when she pulled back. “No! It’ll be worse if we run!”

Uncle Henry was an frightful man. A giant of a man who could freeze you with one look. He knew how to twist your innards into excruciating knots with merely a stare. He knew how to strike terror into the hearts of wayward youngsters.

Many a time had we earned his wrath, giggling together as we hid outside while the sun sank down beyond the horizon and Uncle Henry called for us to come in. Sometimes we explored an empty field, one that housed a myriad of tiny toads. Catching toads was one of our favorite pastimes. But there was one small dilemma: the toad field was off-limits to us. It was a rule we blatantly ignored.

In the other direction was the nuthouse. An insane asylum that scared us even worse than Uncle Henry. The crazy people dressed all in white lunging at us as we walked past scared us so badly we never walked past it again. Looking back I realize there were no crazy people threatening us, just the staff having themselves a good laugh scaring a couple of little kids. It worked.

Abby and I were notorious for hiding out especially when we knew we were in trouble. Our favorite hidey hole was a tiny room that only a kid could get into. Abby’s bedroom closet had an unfinished attic at the back of it where Christmas decorations and doodads were stored. Behind the boxes of decorations down along the floor was a tunnel just big enough for Abby and I to scramble into. After a few feet the tunnel narrowed and we had to inch along on our bellies like snakes to continue onward. At the end of the tunnel was a room, a tiny room with pull string to turn the light bulb on.

Abby and I spent a lot of time hiding out in that little room, often to the sound of Uncle Henry’s voice bellowing in anger at our sudden disappearance. That room was our safe-house, the place no adult knew about or could get to.

Outside the hidey hole we knew we’d find Uncle Henry’s scowling face, ominous with its implication of dire consequences. It didn’t matter that he’d never actually DONE anything to be frightened of except for one whooping I heard Abby get. He still scared the dickens out of me. Why did he strike such utter terror in the hearts of us mischievous kids? I have no answer for that.

On the verge of adulthood I moved far away and I didn’t see Uncle Henry again. Years passed and Uncle Henry remained in my memory as this frightening personage, towering over us like an angry giant, striking abject terror into our young psyches.

When I saw him again many years later, I discovered a man with an incredible sense of humor and a ready smile. Not the formidable man of memory, but a man whose blue eyes twinkled in merriment as he described a little room he’d built over thirty years earlier, a room with tunnels leading into it and a light bulb which never seemed to burn out.

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