The Second Dresser Drawer: A Heartwarming Story of Childhood Terror

“Fine,” said the younger daughter with great reluctance, “you can look in my room. As long as you don’t open the second dresser drawer.

She looked at us with her I’m Not Kidding face, and her Don’t Try Me Right Now lip-pursing, and the I’m a Preteen And I WILL Knife You in Your Sleep stare, and we knew she meant business.

It was nighttime, just before we put kids to bed, and we parents were busily searching the house to find the missing cord to an ancient white noise maker in another bid to help our anxious kid sleep better, but at our daughter’s emphatic direction, Greg and I looked at each other with that quick and silent conversation you perfect over the course of parenting; Do you know why she said that, we thought at each other, because I sure don’t, and WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN, ANYWAY, “don’t open the second dresser drawer?” 

It’s like a when small children get quiet in the other room. There’s an instant sense of foreboding. Nothing good came come of this, you think, and, given the number of times you’ve turned the corner to find a modern Sharpie art mural on the kitchen cabinets or a toddler playing blissfully in in the bin of flour she’s dumped upon the floor, you’re usually right.

“Hey, Aden?” I said. “What’s in that dresser drawer, honey?”

I tried my nicest, least panicky voice. I mean, the kid’s in middle school. It could be DRUGS. Or SEX, although I’m not sure how you’d put sex in a dresser drawer, but KIDS THESE DAYS; ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE. Or what if she’s the head of an Underground Candy- or Chips-Smuggling ring?? Like the mob boss of candy and chips! If so, I’ll have to confiscate all her merchandise and eat it to teach her a lesson. There’s no way I wasn’t finding out what was in that drawer.

“I don’t want to tell you,” she said, and put her head under her blanket to hide on her bed.

“But,” I replied, “I really feel like we need to know.”

And then Greg and I waited.

And she finally whispered, “It’s the doll.”

Except it wasn’t a sweet whisper.

It was a creepy whisper. 

Like something from Children of the Corn.

Or when that kid from the Sixth Sense says he sees dead people. 

“It’s the doll, Mom,” she whispered.

And I whispered back, because whispering seemed important, “What doll, baby?”

Tiffany“Tiffany,” she said.

And I’ve written about Tiffany before. A sweet story about my oldest daughter’s Last Doll. A story that always makes me cry because it’s about the magic of childhood and my baby growing up and passing her doll and the magic along to the littles. It’s all that’s aching and bittersweet about relinquishing childhood. And it’s all that’s beautiful about sisters and brothers who take good care of each other’s hearts.

“What about Tiffany, Aden?” I asked gently, thinking she must’ve cut Tiffany’s hair or colored on her face, and not blaming her, really, for not wanting to tell me. We don’t have a ton of heirloom type toys at our house; we’re hard on the house and the furniture and the toys, so we’re used to things breaking, but we’ve tried hard to keep Tiffany in good condition, and we all tend to treat her like she’s Real.

Aden peeked with one eye out of the blanket and whispered, “She comes alive at night, Mom, and if I open the drawer, even a crack, she comes and stares at me while I sleep. I never, ever open that drawer, Mom, not ever since Abby told me that.” 

“Since Abby told you that?” I clarified.

“Uh huh,” she confirmed.

“Abby, your big sister?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“And how long has Tiffany been in that drawer, Aden?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Mom,” she said. “A long time, I think.”

So I wandered down the stairs to find my eldest.

“AHEM,” I said.

And she said, “What?”

And I said, “Did you, by any chance, tell your little sister that Tiffany comes alive at night?” 

Abby started to grin.

“And did you, oh sweet DARLING girl, happen to mention that, if she left her dresser drawer open, Tiffany would crawl from the dresser and stare at her while she sleeps?”

Abby started to laugh.

“And did you, at any point, think to tell her none of that is true?” 

Abby, cackling, shook her head no.

“So, then. You WILL, I am SURE, march upstairs and tell your sister right now that you made it all up, yes?” 

And Abby, still giggling, said, “Yes.”

And then she said, “Mom?”

And I said, “What?”

And she said, “I told Aden that over a year ago.”

Over a year ago!

For a year – a YEAR – my daughter’s been sleeping with Chucky in her room.

Tiffany2

And if that isn’t a sweet, precious, heartwarming story of childhood terror, I don’t know what is.

The End

P.S. Greg, Abby and I all told Aden that Tiffany doesn’t really come alive at night. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t believe us.

P.P.S. I don’t think I believe us, either. Send help.

Tiffany Photoshop Credit: my little brother, Jeff McDonough. He’s proof a younger sibling can withstand torture by an older sister and be marginally functional as an adult.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
19 comments
  1. I have to say, I was kinda skeptical about your title “A Heartwarming Story of Childhood Terror,” but you absolutely pulled it off. I laughed so hard. Poor Aden.

  2. When I was in elementary school, I made up alternative lyrics to Three Blind Mice. I sang this song to my preschool-aged sister repeatedly.

    It wasn’t until *much* later that she told me that she always hated Three Blind Mice, until she went to college and heard the real words for the first time! Oops… Apparently her imagination had really run with the visions of what happened when you microwaved mice…

  3. Just an idea. Maybe if she continues to hold onto it, as a way to get past it, you can help her find a way to trick her sister back so that she can start to see it for the trick that it was.

  4. Hahaha! I’m not sure whether to feel badly for your poor younger daughter or laugh at older daughter. One thing’s for sure, this story will live on in infamy at family gatherings for decades to come. And you gotta love a story with that kind of longevity.

    I have a Molly doll (one of the three originals from Pleasant Company) from my childhood back in the early 90’s that I’ve held on to for my daughter. I will most certainly think of this when I finally bring her out of storage for my daughter in a couple years. I hope her eyes haven’t turned red…

  5. Poor baby! Sisters can torture to no end. My sister was one of the worst. And now as a grown up, she does it to her husband. Remember the Chrissy dolls with the long red hair? My sister still has hers and uses it to torture her husband by moving it every so often so it looks like it’s following him. After a while he figured it out it was my sister moving it but when you come across her in the basement in a cupboard or behind a curtain all sense of reality goes out the window. So glad he has to live her now and not me 🙂

  6. Oh, my – bless her heart. That is hilarious, and you tell it so well – I could just picture your daughter’s head (or what I assumed it looked like) buried in her pillow. I could see my oldest daughter’s reaction, were she to have an older sibling that did that to her – she gets ridiculously, dramatically, scared of everything… 🙂 I am so glad she doesn’t have to worry about it anymore (I hope) and one day, she can laugh about it. Of course, this also calls for payback on the older sis….. 😉

  7. lol! This brings back memories of when I was a kid and shared a bedroom with my younger brother. He used to get out of bed all the time and keep me awake! So I told him there were snakes under the bed and he shouldn’t get out of bed. Can’t remember if it kept him from getting out of bed, but I sure scared myself!! I remember leaping from the bed to the door frame and swinging out of the room like a monkey so that my feet wouldn’t touch the floor and get bit by snakes! Haha!

  8. Beth I think we may have a hint of a clue here. Perhaps we can finally put our finger on just why it is you rarely get to sleep in your own bed with a whole side to yourself? You might start a little home tour and ask for places you are not allowed to look. You may uncover an army of creep doll stories? In which case that oldest needs a turn or two being the safe harbor because moms need to sleep sometimes too. 😀

  9. My mom took a running leap into the bed up until college because her older sister convinced her when she was younger that under-the-bed monsters would grab her feet if she got close to the bed. 😀

  10. My brother and I (ok… so I was 13 and he was 6) convinced my younger sister (age 3) that she was hatched from an egg that we found that had been left by aliens… and that one day they would come to take her back (and we might have insinuated they might eat her?) We still joke about that when the family all gets together. She is 30 now and we still wonder when those aliens are coming 🙂

  11. Yet another reason I hate dolls.

  12. Poor Aden….
    I wish that I could be as confident as the first commentor that my kids have no secrets….I mean,you tell then that they can tell you anything and that if they have any problems to let you know and no matter what it is that you will help them and love them but I would never be 100% certain that there are no secrets…

    On a lighter note,when my husband was a child,his older brothers told him that the words tp that old song “I’ll be your substitute” were actually “I’ll be your prostitute”….and made him sing it to their mother and her friend…gotta love the siblings 🙂

  13. Poor Aden. She has probably had the fear off and on for a year. When her head hits the pillow hopefully she falls asleep fast and never had much time to think about whether Tiffany did come out and stare at her. I would have come across Tiffany a long time ago. I go through everything in our house. There are no secrets to be had in my household by ANYONE because they will be found out. I don’t know what I’m looking for but I have a 13 year kid who thinks he is 25 and a 17 year old who spends a lot of his time composing, writing, and playing music. While neither seem harmless you absolutely never know.

    Okay, back to your story, Beth…I would ground Abby until she moves out!!!!! As innocent as this is it had scared the living sh*t out of her sister. Not good. Poor Aden. Has she been sleeping with a nightlight? I sure would have been. Poor Aden. =(

  14. I laughed so hard that MY 16 y.o. came out and asked what was going on. Then she read the story. Then she said, “Now I wish *I* had a little sister, because I would SO do that!”

  15. That is SO funny. I do feel really badly, though, for poor Aden sleeping for A YEAR with the belief that Tiffany came alive at night!! Ah, siblings.

  16. Ahhh, older siblings and their wonderful hand-me-down stories. My older daughters have convinced their youngest sister (who is 8 now) that any time she hears a police siren, she better watch out, because they are probably coming for her… because they know about *insert most recent little sister annoying thing here*. This went on for at least a year before I figured it out. (The hiding behind lazy-boys when cops were heard gave it away) I stopped it when she was 5, and now at 8, she STILL TRIES TO HIDE WHEN SHE HEARS SIRENS!!!! If there ever is a REAL emergency, I’m not sure what she will do. sigh. Needless to say, I can definitely relate to this story!!! It makes me feel not quite as much of a complete failure as a parent to know I’m not alone!! 🙂

  17. This is hilarious! I can’t let my husband read it though. His sister told him that witches live under his bed and fast forward more than 30 years and he still gets freaked out by scary movies (like 6th Sense) and being awake at night and other creepy things. Oh the power that siblings have!

  18. Sounds like something my older sister would have done to me. Quite a little Evil Genius you have there. I like her. 🙂

    1. I like her too, but I’d be REALLY afraid of what she might do when/if you really upset her: this is a kid who (a) knows your weak points, and (b) goes for the jugular.

      Just saying …

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