It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Emma Plays with the Boys

The boys cluster round the baby gate at the top of the basement stairs, peering into the darkness in the depths. This is an extremely solid, hand-crafted gate. It does not bend, bulge, or wobble. Perfect for a gate closing off a steep set of handrail-free steps ended on a bare concrete floor. Comforting to know when three three-year-olds are peering over it.

“There’s a MONSTER down there!” Darcy notes, devilment in his voice. The others huddle tighter, giggling, thrilled by the horror of it all. “Yeah!! A MONster!!”

“A BIG monster!” Arthur expands. More giggling. Much pointing and oohing and whispering.

“Excuse me, guys!” Emma bustles them to one side so she may go downstairs.

“Emma! You can’t go down those stairs!” George pronounces, a quiver of genuine worry tickling his voice. “There’s a monster down there!” Then he giggles. He’s kidding, and he knows it. Does he know it? Yes! Yes, he’s kidding. Ho, ho, ho. Is she really going down there?

Emma gets to the bottom of the stairs, disappears from view. The boys peer down the stairs, nudging and giggling. “Emma’s gone to to the monster!”

“Yeah! Emma gots to be careful of the monster!”

A roar comes up the stairs. The boys step back from the gate. A monster just roared! But there is no monster. But the monster just roared! The boys’ giggles are tinged with uncertainty. All except Arthur, who is positively giddy with the excitement of it all.

Emma reappears!! All is well! She was just getting something from the dryer. Emma was just teasing. Silly Emma! The boys dance and laugh. See? It was just a pretend monster! WE knew that.

Emma turns to the basement stairs, and waves her fingers at the darkness below. “Byeeee!!”

“Who are you saying ‘bye’ to, Emma?” The boys are curious, a little alarmed, smiling.

“The monster!” Emma smiles warmly at the boys.

Emma will make a great mother some day.

February 2, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Oh, this post was so charmingly written. This could be published! Seriously! I really think you should think about writing a children’s book based on this. This was great! It just has that rhythm– I can see how it would be illustrated.

    Comment by jen-o-rama | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  2. If Emma does this a few more times, you won’t need the gate anymore.

    Comment by Chag | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  3. Oh, this reminds me of something we witnessed a few years ago!

    There is a park nearby that is multi-leveled. For example, the mouths of the slides are at the top of a very big hill, and the ends are at the bottom. There are winding steps alongside, too. And a few hundred yards away from the ends of the slides is a set of swings. The grassy part of the park isn’t very large; there are lots and lots of trees.

    We were swinging on the swings with the kids when another family came down the steps. The little boy (2? 3?) came hurtling down first and started running straight for the tree line. The dad called out, “Don’t go there! There are monsters in there!” And the little boy came running back, screaming his head off.

    We laughed and laughed!

    Comment by misfit | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  4. Jen: It would be fun to try to capture their ambivalence: that nebulous border between fantasy and reality. I’ve never seriously thought of writing a child’s book, though “The Monster in the Basement” has a certain potential. Hey! A new genre: toddler thriller. (NOT serious! Ick,ick,ick,ick,ick…)

    Chag: Ha! Like you can rely on a toddler NOT to try to kill themselves, whether death by tumble down the stairs or by monster, you just can’t trust the little, er, monsters.

    Misfit: A FINE example of parenting-on-the-fly! I’d never have thought of that so quickly – but I’ll bet Emma would! LOL

    Comment by Mary P. | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  5. Yay for Emma. Excellent! (Not that I’d ever do anything like that, no, not me!)

    Comment by Simon P. Chappell | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  6. Years ago I worked as an ambulance attendant. We had a patient probably on LSD who was very agitated. My partner and I fought to keep him on the stretcher in the back of the ambulance. It took two of us so we had no driver. We could not keep the guy down. Suddenly my partner yells, “Watch out for the elephant.” The guy becomes riged and holds still. That lasts about two minutes then he starts fighting us again. My partner yells that again. It works. The guy freezes. My partner runs to the drivers seat and starts driving to the hospital. About every two minutes I had to yell, “Watch out for the elephant.” It worked and we made it to the hospital.

    Comment by jw | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  7. Simon: Nor me, either. It’s not nice to play with their little minds. (But it’s so much fun!)

    jw: That’s a GREAT story! Probably not so much fun, driving with a man who might leap up from behind and start fighting you at any moment, but really funny now!!

    Comment by Mary P. | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  8. My mother used to tell my sister and I that there was an elephant in our basement, so that we wouldn’t open up the gate and go down there. Of course we believed her because we had heard him sounding really angry a couple of times. One day my father was at the dinner table when he suddenly decided he needed to blow his nose.

    And then it hit me. It wasn’t an elephant in the basement at all. It was my dad.

    Comment by Misfit Hausfrau | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  9. Emma is cute. The kids are cute. So much cuteness.

    Comment by Kristen | February 2, 2006 | Reply

  10. I love this story. I was terrible with my brothers and told them all sorts of stuff (that there was a Target Alligator, etc.). They half believed and half disbelieved me, and yet they always wanted to hear more.

    (And I did write a children’s book for one of my brothers, about a monster under the bed. You should write one, it’s a lot of fun!)

    Comment by the weirdgirl | February 3, 2006 | Reply

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