If I was to turn back the pages of my life, to the first calm months at my stepfather’s house, my days would appear wonderfully simple and sweet, and in truth they were. It was a time when a gentle thread of calm and security weaved through my days. A brief moment I fondly remember and continually reflect back upon, perhaps in an attempt to regain some semblance of normalcy or to remind myself there was some good.
There weren’t any worries about money. My stepfather Drake was an attorney and helped the city officials acquire land for approved projects, which sometimes meant property owners had to give up their homes. It was rumored much later, when I was an adult, that Drake’s firm was actually responsible for my great-grandmother having to abandon her house in Monterey, California for demolition, to make way for a multi-level parking garage for tourists…
The rest of this story is in the book Everyday Aspergers
by Samantha Craft, April 6, 2012 (Based on True Events)
I was an only child. But I wasn’t a lonely child. I always had some type of friend; whether a cousin, a daughter of mother’s friend, a neighborhood kid, or an imaginary spirit friend, I always found company. Making friends was never an issue, before I hit puberty. I had a natural cheeriness and good nature, and downright quirky humor that kept people about. I was clever, too, creating skits and recitals on a whim, and performing for whomever would listen. I still appreciate the young couple, our landlords, we had for one year, when I was about nine, who painstakingly listened to me sing You Light Up My Life, whenever I saw them. I couldn’t hit the high notes of the lyrics without a terrible screech—still can’t for that matter.
Though I had friends, I was often alone in the afternoons after my three-mile hike home from middle school. I remember there was a pointy-teethed German Shepard that lived at the top of First Street. He growled at me whenever I walked by, and then darted out clanging his lengthy metal rope with him. It took a lot of courage for me to walk home. Not because of the ferocious barking dog but because of home itself.
Things had a way of following me from house-to-house, and I do me things, as I never did figure out what else to call them. These things kept happening to me.
The things came to the upstairs duplex I occupied in Palo Alto. There was an afternoon when my babysitter and I were sitting on the living room couch and heard a circular sawing sound directly above our heads. Only when we ran outside onto the balcony to see what the noise was, nothing was there. Confused, we walked back inside, but as soon as we sat back down the sawing sound began again. We spent the next several minutes playing a game of running outside to find the noise and then running back inside to hear the noise. No explanation was ever found. Soon, we lost interest, and as children do, turned our attention to afterschool television specials.
That same house is where I discovered my imaginary spirit friend whom I named Buddy One. To this day, I’m not sure if he existed or not. I do recall one time reaching up for a bottle of wine vinegar and losing my grip. The bottle came rushing toward my head, and then, somehow, the bottle moved in the shape of an L and landed gently on the kitchen counter. I remember televisions and phones going wacky and all fuzzy on occasion; and I remember how the faucet in my bathroom would turn on when no one was about. There were knocks at the front door at night with no one behind the door. After a couple of years of living on the property, between the occurrences and my continual nightmares and premonitions of our pets dying, Mother was spooked enough to have a priest visit with holy water in hand.
Later, in my teenage years, when I belonged to a local Catholic youth group, I’d attend meetings in an old yellow Victorian building that used to be a nunnery. That house always spooked me. I couldn’t use the bathroom there. And twice, when I entered the empty kitchen, the faucets turned on.
One of the creepiest happenings took place at my father’s in the Central Valley in California, when I was in college. Dad worked nights, so I was typically home alone. One late night, after I’d watched the Silence of The Lambs at a local movie theater, I entered the house spooked by the whole movie. I flicked on the television for comfort, and right after I turned the television on the stations started flicking from channel to channel, one after the other, nonstop. I couldn’t get the television to stop, even when I used the remote.
But of all the places I lived, the duplex at the bottom of First Street on the Monterey Peninsula was the scariest. The house had a way of calling things to it. It was during this time, during my middle school years, I had horrible nightmares of being speared with a stick and roasted over an open flame by demons. This was the time I’d wake in the middle of the night feeling as if something was pulling me down the bed. A time when I didn’t change my clothes at night because I was afraid of the darkness that came when I lifted my shirt over my head. A time I slept with the light on, the television on, and my nana’s rosary around my neck.
One day at the duplex, I remember a tall stranger came whom had claimed to be a painter. My friend Renny and I were sitting on the back deck, when he sauntered through the yard with a wide and even gait. I can still hear the gate squeaking, the iceplant crunching beneath his boots and his deep voice clearing.
Stopping at the bottom step of the deck, the stranger had glanced across at us two girls with a cool smile and said, “Hello.” It was a simple calling, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. As if the backyard belonged to him. It was Renny who moved first, sitting upright and giggling, blushing like the word Hello had been a compliment.
Inside of me, I felt a need to run, to escape.
“I was asked by the owner to paint the house,” he said.
Wanting to leave and go inside, I had tried to catch Renny’s eye, but she was too busy looking at the blonde stranger.
The man tapped his boot on the step and shifted his weight. He was silent for the brief time he took to scratch his head and sink his hands into his overall pockets. Then he looked out with a rather empty stare. “You two ladies go to church?”
“No,” Renny answered.
I was inches away from the doorknob. “Sometimes,” I said.
The stranger leveled his eyes on Renny. “That’s interesting.”
“Not really.” Renny retorted.
“Don’t you think it’s time you made a decision to commit yourself to something other than yourself? Now you two, let me guess. It’s probably all about boys for you. Am I right? No time for God. But plenty of time to do things you ought not to be doing.”
Renny’s red ears were poking through her hair. She shrugged her shoulders at the man. I remained frozen.
The stranger continued: “God isn’t something to take lightly. Do you want to burn in hell?”
My toes felt numb. There was something terribly wrong with his tone, like he was trying to inch his way inside me with his words. Watching Renny begin to tremble, I remembered back to my friend Jane, when we’d been beaten with the board.
I shouted, “We’re leaving!” and grabbed Renny’s hand. Renny didn’t hesitate to follow. We were through the backdoor quicker than the man could utter one more word. And we left him there, good and lonely, not wanting a single thing to do with him. About an hour later, after Renny and I had escaped inside my bedroom, I gathered enough nerve to look out the kitchen window. The backyard was deserted.
Most days at the duplex, I got the sense I was being watched. It was a terrible frightening feeling. I can’t think of anything worse than the fear I had of entering that duplex. Nothing worse than fearing home: the one place that was supposed to be safe.
I spent most of my afternoons when school let out outside on the back deck, on our flat roof with the ocean view, or on the small front patio. There was easy access to the roof. I only had to climb through our upstairs bathroom window. Out on the patio, a space no larger than two pizza boxes set side-to-side, I’d watch television through the open front door or pull out our extra-long orange cord and talk on the phone.
One cloudy day I ventured inside the duplex to grab a snack. I immediately did what I always did—I opened all the draperies, the front and back door, and clicked on the television.
While I was in the kitchen, rushing about to find something in a hurry, I heard a strange and unfamiliar sound. At first I thought the sound was coming from the television. Some haunted house event on Sesame Street. But the sound didn’t stop. It was a loud throaty breathing, a very scary sound, I will never forget, and can still imitate with a chill-rising tone. The sound was comparable to Darth Vader’s breathing, only more pressing. I’ve only heard the breathing replicated once accurately, and that was when I was watching a ghost hunting show.
On hearing the breathing, I ran to the living room to turn of the television off. I couldn’t stand the noise. I wanted to jet out of the house. However, when the television was off, the noise remained.
I recall turning around frantically to find the source. Not believing the sound could still exist with the television off. It was then, as I began to panic, I heard the sound again. This time right before me. Suddenly, in front of my eyes, a gigantic wall of static formed from ceiling to floor. The static hissed something terrible.
Trapped and cornered, I clamped my eyes shut. When I opened them, the static was surrounding me. The deep throaty breath pulsating through my entire being
As I trembled, I heard words, words that sounded as if they were filtered through a thick mask and felt tube-fed into me: “Get out! Get out! Get OUT!”
As if on cue, at the same time as the words Get Out were voiced, outside the thunder rumbled and the rain poured down. Fearing for my life, I burst forward through the static and dodged around the corner, sprinting out the backdoor at full speed.
Terrified, I screamed at the top of my lungs, and ran and ran up the hill. Finding myself a block up from the house, on the top of an unfamiliar flight of stairs, I leaned against an apartment door and wept. Then without thought, I pounded on the door, still screaming. A young man opened the door and brought me inside.
Ten minutes later, Mother arrived. Taking me by the hand, she led me through the rain down the street and back inside the duplex. Mother listened to my story but blamed the event on my over-active imagination. As twilight approached, she wouldn’t give into my screaming demands.
“Just go to bed and stop letting your imagination get the best of you. If I let you sleep with me, what’s that going to teach you? I’m doing this for your own good.”
My black-beaded rosary, a gift from Nana, was swinging around my neck. I held firmly to Mother’s doorknob. “Please let me in. I’ll be quiet. I promise.”
“Let go of this door and go to bed!” she insisted.
“But the ghost, the ghost is in the house. Please!” I begged.
Mother pulled harder.
“Mother you don’t understand. It was real. I don’t want to be out here alone. Please let me in. Please help me!”
Mother shook her head and glared at me.
My hand slipped from the knob and Mother’s door slammed shut.
I ran downstairs, grabbed the phone, pulled on the cord, and ran outside to the small front patio.
I dialed my father. Before I had spoken more than a few sentences, Dad suggested I stay at Nana’s house.
“Did Nana teach you the Lord’s Prayer?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Use it,” Father said.
Father cleared his throat. “You have to know something. Today I was staring at a photograph of you for over an hour. I don’t know how, and this has never happened before, but I had this sense some evil force was attacking you. Your nana’s mother used to have dreams and sometimes she saw spirits. Last week a psychic told me to destroy a painting I’d made. One with a gray house set up on a high hill. She said to paint candles all around it because she believed it was a portal to another world. Anyhow, I painted the candles, and threw the painting away. Right before you called. I can’t believe this. It’s very strange.”
Dad went on, for several minutes, explaining about how a spiritual group had recently tried to recruit him claiming they believed he had spiritual gifts. Dad, never one to talk on the phone for more than a few minutes, quickly ended the conversation with some more nervous laughter and some pleasantries. Then, after wishing me luck, he hung up.
I sat on the patio listening to the dial tone for a long while, still wiping my tears, and twisting the rosary in my hands. I thought back to all the times before—the nightmares, the stranger, the unexplainable happenings.
I ran into the house, quickly grabbed the old afghan off the couch, and ran out to the backyard wooden deck. I could sleep there, I thought, at least until the rain came.
The accident had happened fast. No one had expected it. I hadn’t meant to let go.
I had fallen headfirst, a good four feet, onto the unforgiving concrete. Riding atop my babysitter’s shoulders, I hadn’t thought not to bend my head back and look down. I was only having fun. No one had ever told me not to bend over. And I’d only had the chance to view my backyard upside down for a minute or two, before I lost my balance and fell.
After the fall, the sitter screamed and rushed me indoors to the dining area. Her teenage friend was there, too—her screams equally loud and bothersome. For some time everything echoed and twisted and turned in the chambers of my ears. Blood rushed out of my head in every direction, staining all the bathroom towels. I was on the dining room table, up high, as everyone scurried about in nervous circles. I glanced down and spotted my Labrador Sugar. Through my tears, I saw she was panting and pacing, and whining some. My small hand met the warm oozing blood at the back of my head. So much blood.
I awoke, wet and hot, to discover myself trapped beneath a heavy blanket in some unknown place. Nothing looked familiar. I turned quickly and tried to rise up, but some force pushed me down. I was inside a nightmare… (The rest of the story is in the book Everyday Aspergers)
Blue is the color for April’s Autism Awareness Month. Proud moms are coloring their hair blue. Kids’ pictures on Facebook are tinted blue. People are donning blue ribbons and displaying blue symbols. I thought this short story, entitled Blue, was fitting for the cause.
I wrote this piece several years ago, as part of a manuscript. I have since broken the manuscript into several short stories. Some of which I share on this blog.
Learning to write took a lot of hard work and practice. In the beginning, I wrote every single day (but one day in April) for a year. I was still a terrible writer then, in my opinion, entirely obsessed with my works, and reading my prose to anyone who would listen.
After the first year of writing, I spent another year editing. Then another year rewriting. Then another rewriting, yet again. I calculate that I spent fifteen hours on each page of the two hundred fifty pages. My biggest hinderance to writing was my dyslexia and difficulty seeing errors. Also, I had a tendency to mix up words and punctuation, and a habit of rambling. (Smiling.)
I hope you enjoy this story.
Everything inside was blue—the seats, the ceiling, the floor, even the steering wheel. I tugged on a string from the backseat cover, wrapping layer upon layer of blue taught around my finger. This mid-afternoon it was my tiny index finger which turned a slight shade of indigo.
“Nothing to get hung about,” Mother sang out smiling happily, as if the coming rain had already washed away her worries. She didn’t have a singing voice, never had, but the effort and soul were there, the wanting to sound good, and the need. Inside the rearview mirror, her eyes the color of amaretto, glimmered, reflecting the narrowing sunlight. From the backseat I hummed along to Strawberry FieldsForever and jingled my clear-red plastic piggybank in the air, lifting him high and turning his gaze outside.
High atop the rolling grassy hills the enormous oaks stood like rows of fresh cut broccoli, rich and green—the bold color before the broccoli is boiled to a dull olive. In the shadows of the day tall eucalyptus trees were sprinkled between the weathered fruit stands; their silvery leaves rustling, fluttering up and back, yielding to the autumn wind. I winked one eye, then the next and then winked several times again to form patterns of gray, brown and green. A gust of moist wind pushed in through the partially-opened side window, tossing Mother’s chestnut hair and bringing a sharp scent of diesel smoke and wet asphalt… (full story available in the book Everyday Aspergers)
I have been selfish and blinded. I have hurt the most precious being on this earth, my very flesh and blood, my baby, my angel, my bear.
I am so very sorry. And you have every right to be mad at Mommy. You have a right to have emotions, to feel emotions, to have pain, to express the pain, to experience that pain, and to above all share that pain with whomever you choose to share that pain with. I love you so much that I am crying with joy. I am washing the tears from my cheek. And I am crying big tears of “I am sorry.”
This is the most important letter I have ever written. The most important words I have ever written. And Mommy has written thousands of pages of words. You are that important.
When I was little, I promised myself every night and every day, in the morning light and in the dark, how I would love my child with all my heart. How I would never cause him or her pain. How I would be there. How I would carry the pain.
I would die for you. Right now. I would die for you. I love you that much.
I am sorry I haven’t shown you lately how much I love you. I am sorry I have ignored you. I am sorry I haven’t been present. It is my fault. And I am heart-broken because of the choices I made. You are not to blame, one bit. You did nothing wrong. You are perfect.
If you could see me now, crying louder than our doggy howls, crying so hard, because I never want you to feel alone or unloved, unnoticed or forgotten, you would understand how much you mean to me.
You would know that you are not Forgotten. That you are loved beyond measure.
You are my beautiful, divine, and loving son. I am the luckiest mom on earth! You make me smile with delight. You tickle me inside with your jokes and puns. You are amazing. You are brilliant. You are the joy that fills my day and the reason I fall asleep proud. You are a bright star that brings the family an element of surprise, adventure, truth, and great passion.
Our family is complete because of YOU!
Your passion is so huge that it fills the whole of our house. Your creations, inventions, and experiments—as they explode in our bathrooms, across our kitchen, on the balcony, and all around the house—they announce to the world: I am brilliant! I am creative! I am GREAT!
Our family is whole because of you. Because of your brilliance and charm. Your directness. Your ability to see and feel at a deep, deep level. Your gift of knowing things beyond this world. Your gift of bringing a smile to our face, over and over. Your memory is fascinating. Your strong will and determination is amazing.
You will go far in life. You have so very much to offer the world.
And I am so very sorry that I have not been there for you. I am ashamed. I am saddened. I was wrong.
I’ve been lost in my own world and pain. I’ve been hiding from events in my life. I’ve been afraid. I haven’t been brave like you. I haven’t been courageous like you.
But you know what?
You have made me braver with your words today.
Because I love you so much, that your very words pulled me out from where I was hiding, and motivated me to stop being selfish, and to see the beautiful gifts in my life. Gifts like you, and your smile, and your loving eyes—and your huge, huge heart!
I am so blessed!
Look at you. Look what God has giving Mommy! A beautiful, intelligent, healthy, loving, charming, courageous boy. Who could ask for more? Why have I been so blinded in my own worries and fears?
You are glorious beyond words.
So this is both my sorry letter to you, my loving son, and my thank you letter to God.
Thank you God for my boy. Thank you for his angel heart, for his angel hugs, and for his patience with his mom. I know how blessed I am. Please forgive me for not appreciating this marvel you have placed before me, for this gift you have trusted in my care, for this wise being at my side.
“Thank you!” I shout from the highest mountain. “Thank you for this greatest gift in the whole of the world. Thank you for my glorious boy. For my super, fabulous kid who makes my world marvelous.”
Today, my son, I honor your words and concerns. I honor you. I honor all of you. All parts of you. Everything about you is absolutely perfect. There is nothing I would change, nothing I would alter.
I can’t wait until you get home; I’m counting the minutes. I will get on my knees and say: “I’m sorry.”
Then I will wrap my arms around you, and say: “I love you farther than all the universes can reach. I have loved you for a thousand years. Darling, don’t be afraid. I will love you for a thousand more! I will love you forever and ever! I am here.”