I remember living with my family in our house on Wolf Street in Harrisonburg, Va. I was between 4 and 5 years old. I can recall the lay out of the house and many of its furnishings. I even remember the windows and how the sun light shone through them and the patterns it created on the oak floors. There was a living room, dining room, kitchen with a walk-in pantry and two bedrooms on the first floor. Beyond the kitchen there were stairs in an enclosed space that led up to a big room which was unused while we lived there but was warm and sunny during the day with golden oak floors. My mother stored things there: suit cases, freezer containers, glass jars and such that I was occasionally sent to retrieve.
Mostly I loved that house – well, except for those stairs. The stairs were a problem for me. Actually it was a crack in the wall on the way up those stairs that gave me trouble. About halfway up on the right wall there was a long crack in the plaster. And in that hideous crack lived a horrible, ugly giant. I knew that because I had seen him! Originally this giant lived in my “Jack and the Beanstalk” book. He was hairy and grizzly with a bulbous red nose and large buck teeth He was enormous with hulking shoulders, muscular arms and legs and gnarled, claw-like hands. I could see him lumbering to and fro in his giant castle, the floors and walls quaking with each step. His thunderous “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum!” turned my heart to ice! Of course, in Jack’s land he fell out of the sky and out of sight — gone forever, no longer a menace to Jack. Unfortunately, he had fallen into my world and now lurked in that miserable crack just waiting for the opportunity to snatch me off those steps and into his evil lair! I was terrified of that possibility.
My parents thought I had a wonderful imagination and, therefore, were delighted with this story. I realized from their patronizing smiles, the pats on my head and their chuckles when they related my plight to my aunts, uncles and grandparents that I was doomed! If I were to survive it would be up to me. I lay in my bed snuggled under the covers, the silver moon spilling into my room, considering various strategies. I sat on the front porch steps watching autumn leaves tumble and twirl while dreaming of being daring and brave. And I rode my tricycle like the wind thinking how to outwit that wicked monster.
Finally, I settled on my womanly charms and tea which has been served in a civilized manner for many centuries to many a beast. Every morning from my own hutch (a tin furnishing about 2 feet hight w/elegant red flowers on the sides and front doors) I selected a tea cup and saucer and filled it with delicate, aromatic brews and carried it up those loathsome stairs and set it quietly at the mouth of the giant’s lair. Then tiptoed down again wanting only the tantalizing aroma of my offering to awaken the terrible, sleeping giant. Faithfully at noon I would peer up the stairs to see whether or not he had been pleased with my gift. Each time it was evident that my potion had calmed the savage beast and he was either napping contentedly or had wandered happily down a wooded path somewhere in his giant land. So I would remove the cup and saucer, wash them and replace them in the hutch. Then I would select a burgandy goblet and luncheon plate which I filled with some exotic wine and a dainty morsel of cheese and crackers or fine pastry for a delightful snack on his awakening or return.
At dusk my heart would cringe as I thought of those stairs, the crack, and that evil giant for I knew I must retrieve my dishes. I usually dragged some poor creature with me — a doll or stuffed animal — to the dimly lit landing where I once again would peep and peer up the long steps always thankful to find the goblet and plate empty. I would rush to retrieve them, usually unseen but on occasion I was heard or my retreating back side spied by the merciful creature who decided that the meal was just so delicious that he would spare me yet another day.
In fairy tales magic happens suddenly — with the wave of a wand, an incantation or some other definitive means. However, in real life, magic happens slowly and indiscernably…..and so it was with the giant who lived in the crack in the wall. As the days passed, the crack seemed to widen and gradually I was able to see inside by some dim glow filtering through the trees and leaves of that other world. My fear lessened and I no longer dreaded my trips up the stairs. I sensed peace and harmony emanating from that place. And though I knew I could not enter the now intriguing other world, I could peer inside the crack and down a velvet green path strewn with leaves and mist. I imagined all sorts of fantastic places and creatures to be found there.
One sunny morning with tea pot in hand I was greeted by the giant’s wife who, you may recall, had been left in a castle in the clouds when the giant had crash landed into Jack’s bean garden. She looked as homely as before but her dismal, resigned expression had been replaced by a timid but kindly smile. Now, I cannot tell you how the giant and his wife had been reunited nor how their relationship had managed such a lovely reconciliation — I can only testify to their contentment with one another. I, of course, felt certain that my soothing teas had somehow played a crucial part.
The giant’s wife and I visited together on the stairs many times after that. Sometimes the now content couple and I would have a tea party and I would bring the tea service and one or two of my dolls. These were gay, pleasant occasions. I was relaxed and happy — all my old fears gone. I cannot now recall what we talked about. I do know that they revealed secrets to me about that house and all the places and noises that frightened me. I was able to meet their twin boys who lived way back in the darkness of the pantry that slanted down under the stairs. And the dreadful bumping and and scratching noises that paralyzed me with fear while I was in my bed at night I now understood to be the giant family. I was assured that they protected me and I was comforted by their presence in my house.
We moved when I was 6 years old. I cried to be leaving my giant friends as we all knew the opening to their world was in that house on Wolfe Street and they could not travel with me. I would feel sad whenever I thought of them in that house without me. I wondered if the people that moved in after I left enjoyed tea parties with them. I even felt a little jealous. My mother said that maybe they had patched the crack. I was shocked. Why ever in the world would they want to do that? Who would want to close the door to such an enchanting place? The idea was inconceivable.