I trace my love of fear to my earliest childhood memories. When I was a toddler, my family lived in a house that had the misfortune of having a stream in the backyard. My actual memories of said stream are nil, but my actual memories of my sibling’s tales about the stream are crystal clear. This being the 70’s, and me being a baby, my Mom did very little actual supervision of my activities. HA HA HA HA, just kidding Mom! By today’s standards, I mean. So instilling a healthy fear of the stream was wisely delegated to my older siblings. Who were older enough to be a) kind of twisted and b) very accurate in guessing what exactly would keep my berth from said body of water as wide as possible. They told me a monster lived in it. Yup, they went Scotland on my ass, and I bought the tale hook, line and sinker. Older siblings suck, but often in an incredibly useful way.So there I am, at the full and ripe old age of three, terrified of the backyard. One of my most vivid memories of childhood is being “out there” with my older sister who, in her defense, was 13 and clearly hormonal. She received a “very important” phone call and left me alone for what was probably minutes but felt like hours. Hours and hours. Hours and hours of standing, scanning the horizon for signs that the monster had in fact emerged from it’s lair, ready to feast on a plump and rosy little blonde. Who was left waiting, a sitting duck for sure. I shudder to remember those moments, my eyes splitting time between the back door (from which my sister might emerge at any moment to rescue me) and the back yard (clearly a haven for beasts from beyond). Good times! Childhood is such a lark, right???
But that was not the only way in which I was traumatized by my siblings. My brother, only ten at the time, felt it was highest hilarity to deliberately lure me into compromising situations…involving the TV. Being a toddler as I was, I harbored a great love for “Underdog”; being a toddler as I was, I also harbored a tremendous fear of the monster who emerged from behind buildings to grip Underdog in its sweaty palm during the opening credits. My solution was to hide behind the green chair in the living room until the credits were over. My mistake was allowing my brother to coax me out from behind the green chair…just in time to see the monster grip Underdog in its sweaty palm. I don’t know what it is about being three that makes one so gullible, but my recollection is that I fell for this "prank" on an embarrassing number of occasions. My brother has a great innocent looking face, and when he told me the monster was finished, I too frequently believed him. And LOOK AT ME NOW.I was primed for fear. Primed to be afraid. I suffer from a total recall of my cousin George repeatedly informing me on April Fool’s Day that I had a spider on my back. I was in preschool, so each time he said it, I believed it. A dozen times over the course of one day. Damn, little kids are dumb, am I right? But I was plugged into fear. In those same years, my brother was a fan of the serial “Dark Shadows”. I remember being both attracted and repulsed by it, hiding behind the same green chair, peeking out for moments and hiding my eyes and plugging my ears for others. For whatever the reason, fear was my guide and my mentor. Remember Kevin McAllister in “Home Alone”, with his (totally rational, imho) fear of the basement and his creepy neighbor? Well, put the kid on steroids and you have me, from my very earliest memories and recollections.
I could go on and on about this but for now I would simply like to say that my life has been HORRIFYING. And I like it like that. Would you know what to do if the inevitable zombie apocalypse were to suddenly occur? I WOULD. Would you be able to handle the very delicate real estate dilemma if say, a vampire moved in next door? I WOULD. Would you have a clue as to how to effectively alert the authorities if the madman you had been supervising in a high security mental facility were to escape? I WOULD. I am prepared, people! When I hear a strange noise in the basement, do I cower under the covers and hope it is nothing? NO WAY!!! I make lots of noise myself, turn on lots of lights and go to confront said noise because I already have my escape route carefully mapped out. Being afraid can be fun sometimes, but also empowering. So next time you enjoy the sensation of your stomach in your throat on a rollercoaster, just realize this: you are I aren’t as different as you think.