We moved from Kingston to Rome when I was a small boy. We moved to Armstrong Street that ran off of Allen Street. Allen Street is now the part of John Davenport that runs from the railroad tracks to Division Street.
I remember very well, for it was a big, two-story house, six rooms downstairs and two upstairs. I say two upstairs, but at the time of this story I was not permitted upstairs.
The first day, I started up the stairs and my mother got me by the seat of my pants and told me if she ever caught me upstairs without her or my father she would bust my breeches. In those days, when told something you listened. There was an old saying around our house back then, “He who cannot hear shall feel.”
It was nice in the big house. Everybody had their own room. Me and little brother had a room together and we would put out the light and talk across the room to each other. The door would open and our mother said one word, “Quiet.”
I remember lying there, listening to the noise coming from upstairs. I lay still as long as I could. I eased up and opened the door, listening to see if my parents were asleep. Not hearing anything, I walked over and looked up the stairs. It was dark but there seemed to be a light at the top of the steps.
I was so caught up in watching the light that I didn’t know my mother had walked up behind me. I knew she was there when her hand hit my naked bottom. I jumped and let out a yell that brought my father to see what had happened. I was led over to the room where I slept and the door shut behind me. With my bottom stinging from the whack, I remember covering up my head and going to sleep.
The smell of coffee brewing woke me. I sat silent and ate. I noticed that my mother would give me one of those old funny looks every now and then. I got out of the house and hunted up some of my friends. It was soon forgotten and I told myself that I would stay away from the stairs, but like everything else when you are somewhere around the age of 6, that was forgotten.
I was called into the house by my mother, who informed me that I was to stay in the house and help my sister look after the little ones. I went to my room, got a book and came back to the living room. I began to read and hardly noticed when a friend of my sister’s came in.
The closing of the front door made me look up. My sister had taken the little ones and went home with her friend. I sat up and listened. Then I heard it coming from the stairs. I thought my sister and her friend were in the kitchen for I could hear them laughing. I went to the kitchen but no one was there, then, laughter from the stairs.
I walked over to the foot of the stairs and looked up. Did I get a surprise, for there was now a door that had been put up while I was outside with my buddies. My curiosity doubled. I pulled on the door only to find it locked. I looked up and there was what the old folks called a drop lock on it.
I heard a giggle and my temper went up. I remember saying, “You old silly girl, I will show you.” I ran to the kitchen and got the broom and with the handle, unlocked the door. I looked up as the door swung open. There at the top of the stairs stood a small girl, or what appeared to be. Not thinking, I ran up the stairs after her.
I reached the top of the stairs in darkness. The door that led to the room on the right was closed. I opened it, letting light hit the area around the top of the stairs. I went in looking and checked out the closet, with shivers running up and down my spine. I went into the other room but could find nothing.
I walked down the stairs looking back, making sure no one came up behind me. The door was closed. I pushed on it, but it would not open. It was locked from the other side with the drop lock. I knew that I could not get it open. I sat back and must have fallen asleep. I was awakened by someone shaking me. I opened my eyes and looked into the face of my mother.
When my parents came back home a search began for me. They checked with my friends, who hadn’t seen me. Then a thought hit my mother and she went and looked at the door on the stairs. It was still locked and she turned to go back into the kitchen when she heard a groan from behind the door. Unlocking it, she saw me stretched out on the step, sound asleep.
After a discussion and a sore bottom I never tried to go back upstairs. I would hear things like giggling girls but would keep going. If I heard things at night I would cover my head and say, “Silly girl, go away.” Was this a small boy’s imagination? Did I imagine I heard things because the upstairs was forbidden to me? I will say, “Whatever, it has stayed with me a long time.”