For Halloween, A Scary Real-life Story

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The Halloween house that we have had in the family for over 20 years

Tonight, I am going to see the horror movie Crimson Peak with my oldest daughter, Kaitlin.  Now that she is an adult, Kaitlin enjoys being a little scared, but when she was younger, she did not like it at all.

My younger daughter, Erin, will not be joining us.  She still dislikes being scared.

Thinking about Kait and the movie brought up memories of a chilling event that happened when she was little.  In honor of the upcoming Halloween celebration, I thought I would relate this frightening story from my past.  I have told the tale quite a few times, and yet the hairs still rise on my arms and on the back of my neck when I tell it.

My palms get sweaty. It is a story that plagues me with a notion of what might have been.

The story takes place in Chicago, in 1989.  My husband was still in podiatry school, and I was at home in our rented condo, taking care of our daughter, Kait.  Kait started walking at eight months of age, and once she mastered walking, she wanted to run.

By the age of one year, she was running everywhere.

We did not have any outdoor space at our rental unit, so when the weather was nice, I would take her to the park.  Once winter came, we started going to the top floor of our building, which had an indoor pool, surrounded by an atrium—all the walls and the ceiling were made of panels of glass.

Unless I invited a friend and her child to come swim with us, Kait and I were always alone during the day in the atrium.  Kait was the only child in our condo building, and all the adults either worked during the day or had other things to do.

We had our daily routine:  I would sit by the pool, and let Kait run around by the deck chairs and release some energy, and after a few minutes, I would pick her up and bring her into the pool with me.

Like the toddler that she was, she would often press her hands and face against the glass panels and look outside.  There was a lot to see from that high vantage-point.

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Happy Halloween, everybody!

One day, we went up to the atrium as usual.  I started to set Kait down, but decided to hold her instead for the moment.  I walked over to the windows to check out the familiar view.  As I stood there holding Kait, I felt a cool breeze along my bare legs.  I reached out one hand to touch the window in front of me, and felt just the empty air—the lowest glass windowpane was gone!

I heard a noise behind me, and two repairmen were entering the atrium area, carrying between them a replacement sheet of glass, because the window had lost its seal.

I didn’t yell or scream, or complain to anyone—I took my daughter, pink and healthy in my arms, and walked out of the pool area and rode the elevator back to our floor, and back to our condo, where I sat down and sobbed.

What would have happened if I had put her down to run, the way I usually did?  Why hadn’t I put her down?  Those are the questions that kept me awake at night for some time after the event.

So, that is my scary, real-life story.  Compared to that, Crimson Peak will be a walk in the park.  Just try telling that to Erin, though…

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