Sample Chapter from
An American Girl Coming of Age in the 60s
by Ann Ulrich Miller
A Girl and Her Diary
Yes, my handwriting still is a little shaky. I’ve had the scare of my life!
-- Saturday, April 30, 1966
My diary was only six days old when I penned those words.
I had better warn you that on this paper the secrets of my life will be placed. Please keep and bear my secrets, for they are more than precious to me.
-- Sunday, April 24, 1966
Adolescence is a challenging time. On some level I must have known, at age 13, that keeping a diary would help me through those difficult years.
There was a great social revolution happening in the ’60s. Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, women’s rights and sexual liberation were among the issues at the forefront.
Living in Monona, Wisconsin -- the quiet little suburb of Madison, meant growing up just across the lake from race riots, long-haired hippies, and the bombing of Sterling Hall on the UW campus. Newspaper coverage and Life Magazine were in our faces as students protesting the war marched up State Street to the Capitol.
It was the end of an era, one in which stay-at-home moms got their driver’s licenses right before their kids did. There were scientific advancements with the Space Race, the explosion of color TV sets, medical advancements, actual scenes of warfare and death in living rooms across the country, every night on the evening news.
One of the first events recorded in my diary was an unexplained happening that occurred the evening of April 30, 1966. It was actually a precursor of a subject that would become a central theme in my career future.
White Creature at the Door
My three younger siblings were still up, watching television in the family room when our telephone rang. I was baby-sitting and ran into the other room to answer it.
Flicking on the hall light switch, I picked up the black receiver connected to its black coiled cord. “Hello?”
“Ann?” My mother’s voice was on the other end.
“Yeah, Mom …” I glanced up and could feel the cool evening air wafting in from the entryway of our house in Monona, Wisconsin. It was 10 o’clock and dark outside, but unseasonably warm for the last evening in April.
“Is everything all right?” The inevitable question. Mom was calling from a dinner she and Dad were attending.
“Yes,” I said.
“Are the kids in bed?”
“Uh …” I stared into the family room with its blaring TV. “They’re in their pajamas,”
I said. “They’re watching TV.”
“Well, it’s pretty late,” said my mom. “I want them in bed. We should be home in about an hour.”
I noticed Toto, our German shepherd-collie mix, stretching her black and tan body as she got up from the red living room carpet. “Oh, Mom, wait … Mrs. Jack called. She wants me to baby-sit tomorrow evening. Do you think I can?”
I have no recollection of what she told me. It was at that very moment that a sound caught my attention—the rattling of the doorknob.
My eyes immediately darted to the front door, which had been left open to let in the cool night breeze. The screen door was closed, but latched shut with a hook.
Through the top half of the door, I saw something look in at me through the screen—a white creature with glowing silver eyes and two ear-like projections on top of its head.
I let out a scream. “Mommy! Something’s at the door!”
My mother yelled into the telephone, “What? Talk sensibly so I can hear you.”
“A creature! There’s a creature at the front door!” I shrieked in alarm.
At the sound of my high-pitched voice, Toto’s ears perked up and she started toward the front door, then stopped, lowered her head, and backed away with her large swishy tail between her legs. She never barked. She never even growled.
This, I knew, was totally unlike her usual reaction whenever somebody came to our door. Toto was usually a fierce watchdog and barked at everybody -- even people she knew.
Suddenly, the creature at the door darted away. I continued to cry and carry on, insisting that I had just seen something terrifying. My poor mother kept yelling at me to calm down.
Then, my brother and two little sisters emerged from the family room, wide-eyed and curious to know what was going on.
The thing had gone, but I was in shock. I described to my mother what I had seen, and she asked me, “How big was it?”
“It … it was the size of … Laurie Beth,” I told her, sizing up my red-haired, 8-year-old sister, who was 4 feet tall.
“Was it a cat?” asked my mom.
I insisted it could not have been a cat -- it had been too large.
“Well, was it a man?” she asked.
“No, Mom.” I explained how Toto had not barked or even growled, but had backed away.
My mother hung up the phone and immediately called the Kudrnas, our next-door neighbors. Paul, Laurie and Alice -- my younger siblings -- witnessed my fear and hung back, mystified.
Within five minutes, Mr. Kudrna and his young son, Mark, came over with flashlights and looked around outside in the bushes. When they found nothing suspicious, they tried to talk me out of what I had seen.
Everyone was looking at me as though I had completely lost it. But I hadn’t lost it. I’m sure it sounded far-fetched to those around me at the time, but I have never forgotten the incident. Neither have I been able to ever explain what it was that came to the door when I was baby-sitting.
I speculated on the incident when I recorded it that night in my diary:
I know it all sounds so far-fetched, but you must believe me. It was no illusion. It was real! Really real! The more I think about it, the more unreal it seems. But I can’t forget about it.
I also included a sketch of what I had seen. The incident was never explained, but I’ve often wondered if the event served to awaken me to the awareness of life from other dimensions and also from beyond this planet. My interest in life on other worlds had always been with me, from an early age, and it would become prominent in my future, both professionally and in my writing.