Magic Realism Is a Thing and Apparently It Is Preoccupied with Ears

So the title of this post is dedicated to Rhysaurus, whom I came across while Googling "chimney monster" to see if such a creature was out there on the web or isolated to my father's imagination.    If you'd like to read his interesting blog about stories of magic realism, go here.  Anyway, back to my original post...

See, my dad loved to tell us stories.  Scary stories.  Right before bedtime.  Maybe he thought it would toughen us up.  Pretty much, I think he just got a big kick out of scaring the crap out of us.  Probably the most commonly told bedtime story around our house was "The Chimney Monster".  I have no idea if Dad heard of this character from somewhere else or made it up himself, but I'm sure that the stories about him were all Dad's.  Most of it I've blocked from my memory.  My brain probably figured that was the only way I was going to fall sleep.  Ever.

What made this story work for us was the location of the chimney in our house.  We didn't have a fireplace, so there was no fear of him coming out that way.  No, the Chimney Monster lived at our house because the chimney came up through the middle of the attic.  It wasn't a typical attic, but just an unfinished room on the second floor.  The doorway was in the bedroom I shared with my sister.  Right next to my bed.  So late at night, once we were all in bed, the Chimney Monster would come out of the chimney through some doorway that was invisible to the human eye.  And then he would slowly and quietly open the door to our bedroom.  And then he would eat us.  Or something.  I'm not sure Dad even had to go that far into the story; all he had to do was pause dramatically... and then grab one of us with a yell.  Yep, that pretty much guaranteed Mom wasn't going to be getting much sleep that night.

Dad loved to play hide and seek with us kids, too.  Only our games had to be at night in pitch black rooms.  Mom would stay in the kitchen with the light on and the door closed because invariably at least one child would need a safe haven at some point.  The rest of us would go upstairs and find our hiding spots in the dark.  Then we'd hear Dad start up the stairs.  Slowly he would ascend while using his creepiest scary-monster-voice: "Ready or not, here I come!"  I’m told that when my one brother was little (before I was born) he would typically meet Dad at the top of the stairs, shouting "You found me Dad! You found me!"  Guess he wasn't up for the suspense.   Or peeing his pants.

My sisters and I joke about how we learned to do everything with our elbows firmly dug into our sides.  This was conditioned into us by our Dad who loved to jab us in the ribs.  At the dinner table, if Dad got up and walked behind us for some reason, we would simultaneously sit up very straight and rigid, protecting our sides with our elbows, just bracing for what we knew was going to happen.  We learned to eat, watch TV, do homework and even play the piano in this position (for the most part).  Whoa to the girl who let down her guard!   And we would fight over who had to sit next to Dad at dinner.  He loved to mess with you with you tried to eat.  Waiting until you had the fork almost to your mouth and then knocking it down.  Taking food off your plate.  He was quite a jokester, but after several years of it, we dreamt of eating just one meal in peace.  Then again, I wouldn't trade one minute of my childhood.  I miss you, Dad.