As a young child and tween, I was afraid to sleep alone at night. I was scared of monsters getting me. It was a very serious issue for me back then. One, my parents didn’t realize. Thank goodness I have an older sister, who took compassion with me. I really can remember things that scared me from a very young age, starting at three or four.
I was born in Chicago, and lived there up until the midst of the fourth year of my life. However, I’ve had recollections as a baby, such as getting chocolate milk bottles at bedtime in my crib, carriage rides, and Andy Penway, lifting the hood of my carriage to play peek-a-boo, and even the traumatic experience of my Father deciding it was time for me to be weaned off bottles! As a toddler, I remember a couple things that scared me.
We lived in a house on Paulina street. Think that’s the correct spelling, don’t exactly remember the spelling on the street sign. I do remember the lower level of the house, especially the living room. At that time in my life, my older siblings loved Creature Features. This was a weekly program in the horror genre. I was too young to watch, because it was much to scary for a toddler! So, I was always sent to bed on the weekend, because the only television set was in the living room. I would hang out in the kitchen, just next to the living room, to stay as close to a human as possible. My bedroom was up a dark flight of stairs, much to far from someone to rescue me from a monster in time, before my horrific demise! Oh No! I certainly wasn’t going up there alone at night! Just being able to hear the show gave me the creepers!
The setting of the living room at night, was also a scary site imprinted into my Fight-or-Flight response! There was a massive picture window, facing the front yard, where a huge Oak tree stood in the center. Those of you who know Chicago, know that a front yard is basically a 50 x 50, patch of grass. I might have been a little generous on those dimensions, but I do know that Oak tree was massive. Remember how when your little, everything appears much bigger, until you grow? Well, imprinted into my mind is a lightning storm that lit up that picture window, and I would see this ominous tree , that in my mind, was harboring all the monsters from the Creature Features! At that age, it was obvious to me, that my family could not see the danger lurking out behind the front door!
At four years of age, we moved to the Southwest suburbs, away from Chicago. We moved to a just developing neighborhood, into our newly built three bedroom home! It was my parents, my eldest sibling, my big sister, my older brothers, they’re twins, and finally the youngest, myself. Hmmmm…..three bedrooms? To my delight, my big sis was my roommate and of course my brothers shared their room also. My sister an I had twin beds, on opposite sides of the room. Sis, was seven years older than I, but she loved and adored me, thank God. As the thunderstorms hit at night, I had my Sis! No more reasons to be afraid, I was not Alone!
Don’t want to get off track, but eventually, there was a conversion to the house, my brothers received a new bedroom on the lower level, And I took over their old, room, redecorated to my taste. I was alone again, but when the storms blew in, my big Sis, always welcomed me into her room, and would let me crawl into her new queen sized bed. I was not over my fears, new ones would haunt me all the time. In particular, commercials about horror movies now playing at theaters, would scare me. One very particular commercial for a movie called ‘Beyond the Door‘, imprinted in my brain! I could not get those images out of my head. Every drawer on my dresser had to be completely shut, and my sliding closet doors had to be shut as tightly as possible, so that no one could peer at me through the crack in the closet. I became obsessive compulsive with all drawers and closets.
Then came the scariest movie ever to me at that point! Sitting with my brothers, I watched Romero’s original ‘Night of the Living Dead‘! I was scared as scared can be, for years! Bed time was not an invited pleasantry to me. If my sister was gone, I would hide under my covers all night! It was hot, and sweaty with the warm dank air of my breath sucking away at my oxygen! My parents had no idea how traumatized I was feeling. I even went through a spell of wetting my bed. That was easily fixed, clean sheets and blankets. I just wished my Dad had understood how completely terrified I was, instead of just telling me to go to sleep.
Movie night with the parents! We went to see ‘Jaws’ when it came out at theaters! Once again I was terrified! What was there to be scared of? I didn’t live next to any large bodies of water. What actually scared me in that movie, is when the diver is exploring a sunken boat in their investigation, and as she thought she found something, this big water-bloated face pops up scaring her, and imprinting that image in my brain! My parents had to take responsibility for that one. They had to coddle my fears for awhile! I felt justified for a little while anyway.
My big sister was very good to me. She took me out with her and would always bring me home little treats when I was under the weather. One of her boyfriends was a lifeguard, so she would take me swimming at the pool, would let me come and join her and her friends for awhile when they were visiting in her room. I applaud my sister for making me feel so special! She even took me to movies! One in particular I will never forget. We went to see John Carpenter‘s ‘Halloween’ at the theaters. Once again, I was terrified! My sister was so sorry, she didn’t think it would be that scary. Then she started freaking out because my parents would question her judgement on taking her little sister to such a terrifying movie! She kept me quiet and begged for me not to tell! I could come to her room anytime! The thing is, what scared me most, was the beginning of the movie. The child in the clown suit, murdering his big sister! That is what haunted me!
I eventually grew out of those fears, even though they all have an imprint in my memory. I am a big fan of horror movies, none of which have scared me in the slightest. But, I have always been very tender and compassionate with my children’s fears, no matter that I knew there was nothing to be afraid of, I understood that they were still fearful. You can’t reason with fear. So, my bed was always open to them, and if there was no room, they would make a bed with lots of blankets and pillows, on the floor beside me. Then they felt safe, and I felt good that they felt safe!
I am still waiting for a horror movie, or even suspense thriller, to captivate my fear again, but alas, so far, no such luck! Sleep tight my friends, and please remember that your child’s fears are real to them, no matter how much you try to reason with fear. What movies or events scared you the most?