Musings on the curious child…and keeping secrets.

My brother Val and I were the kind of kids who got into everything. If there was an open door, a box with a lid, a hole, a crypt, a cave, a dark path, a closet….we’d be into it.

Our three older brothers were more or less trying to ignore us most of the time so that led to greater and more expansive exploration on our part.

Being small and quiet creatures, we also became very good at listening in and hearing things we were not supposed to hear. If one stands right outside of certain doors or windows it is amazing what can be heard. Word about business, affairs and other things we didn’t understand (being children) but there was plenty we did understand.

We also had follow-up questions as well so we’d slyly drop hints to adults and get answers. Adults like children who are interested in the big wide world. So eventually we were the ones the older folks told their stories to, not just the Vampire folk but everyone. We’d ask and they’d tell.

Of course we got into all sorts of trouble too when we were caught. Once on a summer night we were caught in a carriage house so we hid behind a wagon and started to snarl and growl. With our glowing eyes the who were after us ran out to fetch their guns. We escaped but there were rumors of rabid mountain lions for years. It started out as bobcats but you know how rumors just make things bigger and bigger. I even heard our parents discussing something about wolves.

There was the Artist we used to spy on. On nice evenings he’d keep the windows open in his studio and we’d be underneath listening.

He is now quite famous and even now has work hanging in the Crocker Art Museum, but we knew him when he was “alive”. He was a Vampire, a fact unknown to the art community and his patrons. We’d love to hear the conversations he’d have with other artists, photographers, politicians, his lovers and everyone else who’d drop in on him.

About the same time we were frequenting the spot under the window of the Draker’s home. Mr. Draker was a dashing  hero in the War Between the States (so we were told) and a wealthy man. She was a sweet woman named Mary who was her husband’s pride and joy because her beauty and charm. She was also his punching bag. We listened in on those horrible nights when he beat his wife until she was begging him to stop. Never would he touch her face – so nobody else would know.

At this time the painter was painting a portrait of Mrs. Draker. She would sit so still, but then they’d talk. Their conversations were full of humor and life. They were kindred spirits of the rarest kind. Val and I (now age 13 & 14) decided to do something about Mrs. Draker’s horrible situation.

We thought about killing her husband but that was out of the question. So we decided on plan B. One day we casually dropped in on the Artist and started to discuss painting.

“What a lovely painting of Mrs. Draker.” My brother said this with the authority of a Paris art critic.

“Don’t play shy with me Valentine” the Artist said to my brother “I know the two of you have been hiding under my window listening to every thing that goes on in here. If I didn’t know you were Vampires I would have gotten rid of both of you a long time ago.”

“I want to be a painter when I grow up.” I said this in hopes of sweetening up the deal, and it was also the truth.

The Artist smiled and offered us a seat. He knew we were Vampire children so he was free with his dialog to us. As we admired the portrait of Mary Draker we told the Artist that her husband was a tyrant who beat her and used her in the most horrible ways. The Artist said he suspected something was going on but never imagined it was so bad as we described.

Three weeks later Mary Draker left her husband to parts unknown. The Artist died a sudden and untimely death a few days later. What really happened was that The Artist ran away with Mary and turned her into a Vampire and they’re now living in Paris.

We still keep in touch with the Artist. I have one of his paintings hanging in my home. He still paints but now in a style much different than his famous California landscapes and portraits.

Over the years Val and I continued to look into those cracked doors and listen under windows…not quite so obvious as we did when we were kids, but we keep alert and aware.

But the point of this long and drawn out story is that my kids also “look and listen” just like Val and I did. It is good for kids to have that natural curiosity. I don’t mean being nosey or being mean. It means adventure and spunk. It means being aware of what is going on around you.

You can used secrets to help, but kids need to know that they should never use a secret to hurt someone.

I find that my kids always know what is going on at their schools before anyone else. It isn’t that they are spying, they just listen to everything. And I mean everything. In the hallways, in the locker room, in the bathrooms, in the offices…those ears are always open. I’m the same way.

They’ll share stuff with their dad and me but I’ve told them if they hear something bad they should never make it into a rumor or spread it around to their friends. Plus you don’t ever want to have the reputation of someone who can’t be trusted.

And you NEVER want to be a snoop.

So you must be discreet and polite with your curious nature. And you must be careful about what you tell of your adventures. A good friend of mine always says “There are two kinds of secrets. Those not worth keeping and those too good to keep to yourself.” Needless to say I never tell her anything I don’t want to public with.

Or even worse was the 5-year-old who used to live next door to us. She’d come over and tell us the most awful things about her brothers and private things about her parents and end every story with “My mom said that is a family secret.”  Yes, we did find out the real reason the dog had a cast on her leg and why certain rooms in the house were always locked. Whoops.

Now days with everyone on social media and all it is all too easy to poke around. Best be careful not to poke out the proverbial eye with your proverbial stick. Plus, my children aren’t the Victorian children my brothers and I were. Times are different. The younger ones need their privacy and respect, but we still need to watch them grow in a responsible manner.

But I’d rather have a curious child than one who is left in the dark. It is unfair to have a child who is over protected and shielded from the real world until the rude awakening of adulthood.

That is why for the most part I don’t agree with over protecting, and keeping doors closed so that  children don’t get a chance to poke around and listen to the world. I love the fact that my kids go to school with children who aren’t like them. I love the fact that their teachers aren’t just like me. I love the fact that when they visit friends they learn that other families do things a little bit different than we do.

I love what they see and observe and discover. I love the fact that they can see the big picture and things that aren’t in their own homes.

Yes, there should be guidance – yes of course. My kids don’t get to see R rated movies yet and there are other rules (as you already know if you follow this blog).

Val and I continued to have many adventures and misadventures as we grew into young adults. There are times when I’m still shocked that we’re still alive with our fangs in tact. We did know how to get into trouble, but we turned out ok in the end. I suppose we were always ok. Maybe a little foolish (a lot foolish) but our hearts were in the right place (most of the time).

victorian children

And yes, Val and I can teach the younger members of our family because we learned from our mistakes and from things that were not mistakes. It all makes for some funny stories that make us look stupid as kids, but the younger folks can learn from it we can all laugh and learn. Of course there are still a lot of things (like 99% of things) that we’ll never tell anyone

~Juliette aka Vampire Maman

An artists studio

13 thoughts on “Musings on the curious child…and keeping secrets.

  1. Here’s a story my teen came home with yesterday from a module they did in class about gossip (the word is an onomonopia, it hisses.) Odd, the coincidence with this story.
    There was a man in town who, for reasons of low self-worth, slandered another local. One day, feeling bad about what he had done, he went the offended man to ask for forgiveness.

    “Take a pillow,” said the hurt party, “cut it up ans shake out the feathers.” The man did as he was told and then he asked to be forgiven.

    “First, go collect all the feathers.”

    “But that’s impossible. They’ve gone everywhere.”

    “It’s as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover all the feathers.”


    You’re right, times have changed since you and Val were different but the values are still there. Thanks for helping keep them alive. 😉

  2. Hi J,
    I really don’t think kids change from one generation to the next but the world around them changes. All kids are naturally curious and it’s how parents handle that curiousity that makes the difference. I’ve made my share of mistakes, but, you know, some mistakes are just too much fun to only make once.

  3. I was an only child, and when I was little, I would stay very quiet and read in a corner somewhere. My mother and my grandmother would “forget” about me and my bedtime, and I heard the most interesting if often confusing stories. I loved that. If I drew attention to myself suddenly they’d remember bedtime, but otherwise I could listen. Even when mom had a friend over, I could listen. I notice my son learning the same thing. If he’s quiet, I let him stay in the room and forget about bedtime too.

    • Thank you for your story. You brought back more memories. My mom never kenw where I was either. There was a velvet covered chair by the fire place I used to sit behind with my books and dolls. I believe there are still drawings on the bricks of the fireplace I made near the floor.

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