Another Friday Letter to my Kids
Dear J, J, L and L,
You all know I’m a bit afraid of the dark. And tight spaces. And heights.
You also ought to know that wasn’t always the case.
I’m the one who introduced your Dad to rock-climbing and let him haul you kids around on ropes and figure eights yelling, “on belay!” in your webbing knotted seat harnesses.
Now I Shake My Head at myself for letting such stuff happen. What a strange mother you had back then. I didn’t become afraid of heights until a hysterectomy happened. Massive hormone changes, no more testosterone, no more risky behavior from me. (Part of why we never visited the Grand Canyon, only a five-hour drive from here. Sorry, just couldn’t risk it.)
The tight spaces and dark neurosis I earned through childhood trauma.
The first house I ever lived in had a cellar. Basically a small cement encased room with a steep staircase and one dusty swinging light bulb with a tenuous barely reachable string hanging from it.
In order to have light on to find a quart of peaches or a pint of green beans I had to walk down into the darkness, reach up and find the string somewhere above me and pull hard to get it to turn on. Poorly lit at best, distinguishing between peaches, cherries, raspberries, beans, beets and jellies was a crapshoot.
I’d grab a couple of jars as fast as I could, before the infamous creature of the dark grabbed me and pulled me back in underneath the shelves forever. Then I’d run to the stairs. With one foot on the bottom step, an arm reaching for the string to turn the light off, and another foot ready to launch, I pulled the string then ran as hard and as fast as I could manage.
It’s a wonder I didn’t have a heart attack before the scary thing that loves the darkness grabbed me.
Then there was the second house we moved to. Sure it had another bedroom, but a vastly different kind of storage area.
Do any of you remember the crawl space under Grandpa and Grandma M’s house? It looked like any ordinary door to another room in the basement, but on opening the door one saw that it quickly squeezed down into a very small space, literally only high enough to crawl around in. The heater for the house was in that area. So were the jars of bottled fruit and veggies Mom had squirreled away from the previous summer, along with bunch of small storage items.
Grandpa M had a “path” of plywood that reached all across the length of the house and various items on either side of the path. He had a mental map, and probably a physical one, of what was where along that stretch of precious storage space. (Seven kids, three bedrooms, remember?)
Sure, there was a pull string light bulb a few steps into the dark space and a drop light somewhere halfway back, but that was all.
Felt like I got nominated more often than not to be the one to shimmy on my stomach to get some needed item from under there. Sure I got directions, “it’s probably on the right side three-fourths of the way back.” Aside from the very real possibility of snakes, mice and spiders, under there, I was sure I would die by being crushed from the house above me. Or worse yet, I knew the boogeyman was going to reach over from the rest of the unlit dark recesses and carry me off never to see sunlight or my family again.
Obviously, I survived and lived to marry and have children. But the scars remain. Dark spaces and tiny places all but suffocate and terrify me to this day.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t force any of you to go through such trauma. No cellars, no crawl spaces, no attics. Lucky you.
There was, however, that one time that still makes me chuckle and probably makes Little J still nearly jump out of her skin.
Back in Oklahoma, Little J liked to hang her leg over the side of the bed and let it swing as she read. Relaxing, chilling, totally into the book.
Big J spent a good hour or two hiding under little J’s bed while she was reading, probably a mystery, I forget now. (Maybe one of you can fill me in on details.) I’d never heard of a prank requiring so much patience. He may have even fallen asleep under the bed he waited so long.
And then, with no warning a hand reaches out and grabs her foot while simultaneously roaring a bone-chilling sound of doom.
It’s a wonder big J lived to tell the tale.
Poor little J. Do you still peek under your bed before getting in at night or before getting out in the morning? I hope you’ve moved beyond that. If you need therapy you should send the bill to your big brother.
At least it only happened once. But I suppose once, is all it takes, if it’s done right, to cement a phobia solidly in place.
Life is full of fears and surprises. I hope most of yours are good surprises and that all of your fears are unfounded and needless. (No I didn’t say needles, little L.)
I sure do love you all.
“Lucy: Do you think you have Pantophobia, Charlie Brown?
Charlie: I don’t know, what is pantophobia?
Lucy: The fear of Everything.
Charlie: THAT’S IT!!!” ~ Charles M Schulz
I just wrote about the crawl space in my personal history! You described it perfectly. I hated going in there. Always felt panicky the whole time.