When Rachel and Miriam lived with us I would laugh, to myself of course, at the silly things that scared them. They were afraid of any animal or insect even if the insect was either dead or on the other side of a window. They were afraid of the vacuum. They were afraid of loud noises. Of course, they were afraid of the dark and of potential monsters.
Nancy recently posted about taking the family to the museum and having poor Miriam afraid of an open fish tank. If it didn't have a lid, then surely it would spill. The great thing about most childhood fears is that we all eventually grow out of them. But as this is a somewhat historical essay, I want to review those things that frightened me when I was young and see which of those fears persisted.
I was never afraid of furry animals. I loved cats, dogs, hamsters, and almost anything that could be considered a pet. However I was and still am afraid of bunnies. Okay, not the fear that causes me to want to run away should a bunny hop in my path. I fear petting a bunny or, worse yet, picking one up. I am convinced it will scratch me with its hind legs or bite me with its large, razor sharp teeth. To be honest, Monty Python and the Holy Grail did not alleviate my fear of rabbits.
I was never fond of snakes. I have held them. I have stroked them at animal shows and zoos. But I am not fond of them. I came face to face with this angst one day in North Carolina. We lived in a corner house on Revere road and we had more land than we knew what to do with. We had over 50 trees on our lot and some were almost 50 feet high. Having so many trees meant we had a lot of leaves on the ground all through the year. Leaves make a perfect hiding place for snakes and the South has lots and lots of snakes.
When Andrew was quite young and Katharine was still a baby, we were terrorized by a big black snake. Karen would work in a small room we had downstairs. That room had a door that led right out to the backyard. On warm summer days, Karen could open the door and let the kids out in the backyard while she worked. It was a great arrangement, until that big, black snake took over your lives.
When I came home from work one day, Karen took me downstairs to that door which led to the backyard and showed me a brand new hole that appeared that morning. It was too large for ants so we thought we might have a rodent of some sort. I bravely filled the hole with water and dirt and felt confident that whatever made that hole got the message. Well, the next day, as the kids were about to go outside the door, the both stopped in their tracks and screamed. Karen ran to the door and saw the long, sleek, black body of a five foot long snake go down the hole that I had buried the night before.
There as a snake in our yard! There was a snake right next to our house! We were no longer safe. We became hostages in our own home.
I am not sure if we ever used that door again. Eventually we had a deck on the back which allowed the kids to play in a more snake-free environment.
Well, I thought the snake days were over and we gradually allowed ourselves to go back outside. Then one day, when I came home from work, I was almost at the front door and I say a big black snake completely stretched out on the cement landing just before the stairs. My first thought was why do the kids always leave their toys outside. I reached down to pick up what I thought was a toy snake and just before I grabbed it, the snake slithered away. It was not a toy. It was real!
Apart from fears of snakes and bunnies, I do have a fear of falling off a cliff. I have never fallen off a cliff. I have climbed up and down Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. I have rappelled down 80 foot rock cliffs. But I still have the fear of walking along a trail, loosing my footing, and slowly sliding down to my death. Of course I would hang on with my hands on the edge of that cliff until my strength gave out and I would give in to my fate of a being mass of blood and broken and twisted bones.
Why do I have such a specific fear?
I had a very vivid dream when I was a child where that exact thing happened. We were hiking at Lassen National park with the Seavers. We were on a long narrow path. One side of the path was the mountain wall while the other side was a sheer cliff. I lost my footing and found myself clinging for my life. Wally Seavers, who never really liked me, stood above my hands as my fingers began to lose their grip. All we said to me was: “Don’t be such a sissy. Pull yourself up.” At that moment, I lost my grip and fell to my death. I remember waking up from that dream having that falling sensation. I don’t know why Wally never liked me. He certainly didn't have to let me die.
I never thought I was afraid of heights. That was until I was on the top of Mt. Timpanogos. At 11,752 feet, I discovered that I was afraid of heights. Ladders don’t scare me unless they are 11,752 feet tall. Then they would scare me.
|The shed at the top of Timp|
Why did Wally let me die? I was such a nice kid.