Sunday, January 28, 2007

sleeping with the lights on

For a long time, I used to go to bed early -- and terrified. A fire safety brochure we'd been given in nursery school explained that one way you could figure out if there was a fire in the next room was to touch your doorknob. I jumped out of bed throughout the night -- wasn't it a little warm? did it feel hotter than the last time I'd touched it? How could I escape from my second-story bedroom? Was the tree close enough to reach and climb down? Would I kill myself if I jumped?

Conversely, I was also afraid of floods. Whenever it rained, I worried that it would never stop. We lived on a hill, but was it high enough to stay above the rising water? I convinced my brother to help me try to build a boat in the basement workshop, but we had a hard time lining up and hammering the nails.

I was afraid of drowning in the swimming pool, of the rats that might lurk in the little passage next to the garage, of getting lead poisoning from chewing on pencils (I knew the tips were made of graphite, but what if there were lead in the yellow paint on the sides?), of the boogeyman, of German shepherds, of jelly fish, and of Mr. Green, who lived next door.

I was also afraid of Robin Hood. I learned to read early, but, even though I could figure out the words, I didn't always understand the tone or context. In addition, the concept of a fictional character hadn't yet taken up residence in my consciousness. To me, Robin Hood and his merry men were a terrifying band of thieves who were always shooting arrows and, some day, might come to get me. I felt a little better when I read that Robin Hood and his men had taken a vow never to harm women or children. I was a child, so I was safe. Sigh of relief. But, then I thought, what about, what about, when I grew up? Then Robin Hood would be able to come after me. But, wait. Actually, no. Because, when I grew up, I would be -- I realized in a sudden burst of inspiration -- a woman. So, I would never have to worry about Robin Hood and I was free to read the rest of the green-covered book in peace.

1 comment:

Monica said...

This is an old post I know, but it reminded me of my childhood fears. When I was very young I saw the movie Jaws. I was so scared of sharks. In the bathtub, in puddles..anyhwere there was standing water. When I confessed my fear to my dad he told me not to worry, that Jaws was not a real living shark, but a mechanical robot shark. That only made me more afraid because I thought I might at least be able to reason with a living creature not to gobble me up, but a robot shark had no feelings.. just an unfeeling killing machine.