By Richard Mabey Jr.
Our story so far:
It is the first day of summer vacation of 1969. I am 15 years old and have just completed my sophomore year at Boonton High School. It is nearing high noon and I have spent the entire morning painting Thorpe Hall of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, for my Eagle Scout project. After eating my lunch, a man comes to the door and begins banging on the door and demanding that I let him in. Fortunately, I had locked the door. I try to huddle out of sight of this man, who is continuing to hammer on the door and scream for someone to let him in. Shortly after that, my mom knocks on the door of Thorpe Hall. My sister, Patti, is with Mom. I clean up and we all go to Moe’s Sweet Shop. Cute Mary Tafano is at Moe’s. To my utter surprise, Mary asks me to her birthday party on Saturday. Later that afternoon, I help Mom to get supper ready, while my sister Patti plays in the yard, with her neighborhood friend. After supper, Dad comes into my room, while I am at my desk and offers words of encouragement and hope to me.
Our story continues.
After Dad and I talked in my bedroom, I went downstairs to say goodnight to my mom and sister, Patti. Then I climbed up the 15 steps of the old Mabey Homestead and returned to my bedroom. I put on my pajamas and climbed into bed. I had an old Ford Philco radio on my little bedside table. Every night, I would listen to Jean Shepard on WOR-710 on the radio. Mr. Shepherd’s unique sense of humor and his great talent for story telling always brought a touch of joy to my heart as I would drift into sleep. But, that night, even Jean Shepherd’s wonderful story telling could not bring a feeling of peace to my heart.
I tried and tried and tried to fall asleep. But the memory of hearing a fist pounding on the door of Thorpe Hall, earlier that day, while I was in the building all by myself, haunted me terribly. As I lied in my bed, I trembled with fear. I dreaded going back to Thorpe Hall, in the morning, to work on painting the church hall’s walls again. I deeply feared that the man would come back again and once again loudly pound on the door and scream out for me to let him in.
I prayed. I simply prayed the Lord’s Prayer, over and over again. Then I prayed the Twenty-Third Psalm over and over again. My prayers brought comfort to my heart. As I prayed, I could hear in the distance, the sound of a train rolling along the tracks that were about a half-mile away from my house, deep in the back woods. As odd as it may seem, the distant sound of a train brought some degree of comfort to my heart.
I knew that if I wanted to become an Eagle Scout that I had to overcome my fears. I knew, no matter how anxious I felt, I had to return to Thorpe Hall and once again spend the day, painting the walls. I found my solace in praying and praying and praying. Finally, I drifted into sleep.
At quarter to six, the next morning, my alarm from my Ford Philco clock radio sounded. I wanted to go back to sleep. I wanted to sleep till about eight o’clock, then get dressed and ride my bike down to the baseball field at Chapel Hill School and play ball with all of my friends. Just the way I had done, last year. But I knew if I wanted to be an Eagle Scout, I would have to forfeit playing baseball with my buddies, till I finished painting the inside of Thorpe Hall.
I got up out of bed, walked to the bathroom and brushed my teeth and got washed. Then, I walked downstairs. My dad was already up and sipping his cup of tea and eating his Cheerios. Dad had a glass of orange juice set at my place at the kitchen table. Dad had also set up a spoon and bowl for me.
“Good morning, Richie,” Dad said to me.
“Good morning, Dad,” I replied to my father as I poured the Cheerios into my bowl and poured milk over them.
“I don’t want to rush you son, but we have to get going,” Dad said.
“I know Dad,” I replied.
“How much more painting you got to do?” Dad asked me.
“Quite a bit, Dad. I only got half the wall on the side of the parking lot done,” I told my father.
“Mmmmm…. The area by the stage is going to be time consuming,” Dad told me.
“That’s what I figured,” I told my father.
“Well, take your time, you got the whole summer to paint the hall,” Dad assured me.
Dad and I ate our Cheerios. Dad finished his cup of tea and I drank all of my orange juice. Then we headed out to Dad’s truck. Dad drove me down to Thorpe Hall, on his way to work. When we reached the parking lot of Thorpe Hall, I sat in Dad’s truck and trembled a bit.
“You’ll be okay, son,” Dad assured me. “I called Chief Tompkins last night. He said that he would keep an eye on you. You’ll be okay, son,” Dad calmly told me.
“Well, okay, Dad” I replied. “Have a good day, Dad,” I told my father.
“You too, son. I’ll see you tonight,” Dad said to me.
Then I opened the door of Dad’s pickup truck and began walking to the staircase that led up to Thorpe Hall. Inside, my heart trembled.
To be continued.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line.
SUGGESTED CAPTION FOR ATTACHED PHOTO:
#1: I was a very enthusiastic boy, with a very sensitive nature. I was a very earnest, studious boy.
#2: I had a very plain, simple bedroom. It served as a kind of sanctuary for me.
#3: I had an old Ford Philco radio that my Grandpa Mabey had given me. When I was in high school, I used to listen to Jean Shepherd every weeknight, before falling asleep.