August 4, 2007

I was a dark child. The world beyond my bedroom didn’t offer me much. My shoes were scuffed, my corduroys bloomed at the waist and I wore suspenders. I wasn’t going out for the team, any team. I did not have many callers.

Solitary study, on the other hand, was welcoming and rewarded my attentions. Closing the door and spending time with werewolves, vampires, voodoo, Charles Addams cartoons, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, any symphony playing “A Night on Bald Mountain,” any movie with a thunderstorm — The Ghost Breakers, Topper Returns, The Spiral Staircase — Nancy Drew losing power in her flashlight or Fu Manchu breeding a mutant spider with a glint of intelligence in its eyes, a snuffed candle, a muffled scream, a shot in the dark. All that was catnip to me.

I had an unlikely enabler in my mother’s mother, Grandma Braun. Given a pot of tea and a murder, she was a happy girl. Charlie Chan, Boston Blackie, The Thin Man, Mr. Moto, we watched them all on grandma’s television, she in her chair, me sitting on the floor, she with a steaming cup and an three-tiered box of chocolates, me with a snack provided by my Aunt Rhea; it was a good life. And it occurs to me, when taking an occasional personal inventory, that not much has changed, except now I have the tea and chocolate, and the thrillers on DVD. As acorns go, I did not roll very far from the tree.


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