Red Curtain

The Thing Behind the Curtain

Snowflakes drifted past the glowing street lights, gently falling to the soft, fluffy white blanket of snow covering the frozen ground. It was a perfect evening for carolling. At ten years old, I could hardly wait for Christmas to arrive—not only the gifts, but also our traditional Christmas carolling created even more anticipation of the season.

Every year a group of folks from our church would drive around the neighborhoods and sing carols to the elderly folks from our church who had a hard time getting out; it was a festive way to spread Christmas cheer, bring a smile to their faces and lift their spirits!

When our group arrived at a home, after piling out of the cars, my friends and I always managed a quick snowball fight before the singing started. At some of the homes, we were invited in while at other homes, we would try to read our carolling booklet under the dim porch light while the old folks would stand smiling at the door, sometimes joining us in singing the old familiar tunes.

And often these old folks were ready for us! When the singing stopped, out came the cookies!! Instantly turning a chunky kid like me into all smiles! I loved the carolling and the cookies or maybe it was the other way around–the cookies and the carolling! But of all the old folks we went to sing to, there was one home I dreaded going to.

Old Mrs. Trimble’s home scared the willies out of me! She lived in an older section of town where we climbed up the crumbling concrete steps from the street to her side of an old duplex. Every year, for the last two years in my short kid memory, she had invited us inside, and she never gave cookies.

The house smelled old, with old wood and paint, and it always had the weird mix of nursing home and ointment smells mixed in. But the worst part was the solid black curtain, behind which was—the Thing. As we entered, the Thing made groaning noises, short grunts, and screams, and you’d hear it banging around like in a cage or something.

Everyone seemed to be ignoring this, like it was normal, but not me! I was terrified! Mrs. Trimble’s living room was long, narrow and dimly lit; she would always sit in the back in a large chair, which caused all of us carollers to have to stand right beside the black curtain at the opposite end of the room by the front door. This time as we all crowded in, I was forced to the back of the group and right against the curtain next to “the Thing.”

The carolling started and the Thing got more noisy and active–only the curtain stood between me and the Thing. I was always a very curious kid, and so, as scared as I was, my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to gather up my courage and get a look at the Thing. When the moment was right while everyone was heartily singing, I slipped behind the curtain.

At first, all I saw was the end of what looked like a big baby bed with its sides pulled up to keep the baby from falling out. Slowly walking around the end of the bed, I stepped back shocked as the Thing came into full view–it shrieked, and I nearly wet my pants! But my curiosity kept me riveted in place.

The Thing had the twisted up body of a teenage girl!! Her legs and arms were twisted at unnatural pretzel-like angles, forcing her face down tight against the mattress, and she was looking right at me!!!! She made a low growling noise as foamy saliva drooled out of her mouth, puddling on the mattress. The wild look in her eyes was unnerving, and I stepped back further while the carols continued on the other side of the curtain.

I had never seen anything like this, and I was afraid at any moment she would leap out of the bed and attack me! Fascination and fear gripped me like a vice, but my eyes were locked on hers. Then to my utter amazement, in an odd sort of way, she smiled at me!

At that moment, I was no longer afraid, but completely confused as my ten-year-old little brain couldn’t process this at all! As I quickly moved back out to the other side of the curtain, she made some more grunts and shrieks and for a moment, it seemed like she was calling for me to come back. Slipping back into the group of carollers as they finished their last song, we waved goodbye to old Mrs. Trimble and left.

I didn’t tell anybody anything, not even my friends, about my moment with the Thing, or rather the girl, and what I had seen and experienced.

Over the years, as I grew older, I learned “the Thing” was old Mrs. Trimble’s daughter who was born with severe birth defects. She happened to be the younger sister of a lady I really respected in our church named Mary Ann and the Thing was the aunt to Mary Ann’s sons, my friends Dan and Terry.

On the rare occasion when old Mrs. Trimble would come to church, she would sit in the back, and when the preacher said something that touched her heart, she would shout out, “Amen, Brother!! Preach it!!” And even more rarely, she would bring her daughter in a kind of large mobile bassinet, and would park her in the aisle where her daughter squealed and grunted through the service.

One of the things I really started to admire about old Mrs. Trimble was she didn’t care anymore what people thought about her or her daughter! She had gotten past all that shallow surface junk. She just loved her Jesus and loved her daughter, and everyone knew it. She, along with her daughter, had actually become an inspiration to me to do what Jesus had put in my heart to do, and not worry about what people thought of me.

Now that I’m an old guy, I understand completely what was really going on when I met old Mrs. Trimble’s deformed daughter. When I slipped behind that curtain as a kid, I had really stepped into a love story—the love of a mother for her daughter that was so great Mrs. Trimble refused to have her daughter institutionalized but made the decision to care for her as long as she was able. It was love upon love and total commitment.

I have since prayed that the Lord would give me the same love for my family as old Mrs. Trimble had for her daughter–the same unconditional love that Jesus has for us!

After I’m dead and gone, I fully expect to be strolling along the streets of gold in Heaven and be tapped on the shoulder—turning, I’ll see a striking-looking woman, whose eyes spark recognition that tugs at a long-ago memory. She steps back, and with a graceful flourish, stretches her arms out wide, and with a glowing smile says, “Do you remember me?”

“I was the twisted up “Thing,” and look at me now!
Jesus, yes, my wonderful Lord Jesus……has made me whole.”

 

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

–Rev. 21:4 NIV

 

—Best Regards! Nick & Barb Nichols

(This simple true story has been written to encourage you in your walk of faith, or if you want to know more about how you, too, can also experience a walk of faith with this loving God, follow this link >>> My Hope)

 

Copyright (c) 2015 by William D. (Nick) Nichols

One Comment

  • Dolores Stedman says:

    Nick,
    Thanks for this story. My sister has mental retardation and a speech disorder. Thankfully, today things like this are better understood. She is the big reason I went into special education as an intervention specialist. You may remember her from First Alliance Church. Since my mother passed 15 years ago, I have been responsible for her care. She lived with us for 8 years, but after my brush with cancer I felt the need to make her more independent, so she is now in assisted living and is an inspiration to many.

    On a lighter note, carolers came to sing to us last year, so I guess we are considered OLD. Yes, I passed out cookies.

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