Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sara and Melissa talk about...Being Scared

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. This month, in honor of Halloween, we're talking about the scariest things that have happened to us.

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Sara Steven:

This year, due to the global pandemic, there won’t be any trick-or-treating going on in my neck of suburban woods. This really doesn’t mean much for my teenager, other than missing out on potential sleepovers with his buddies, but my fourth grader looked forward to dressing up and walking around the neighborhood, ringing doorbells and saying the obligatory “trick-or-treat,” his pumpkin-shaped bag stretched out in anticipation of whatever candy loot he can acquire. 

In lieu of the usual traditions on October 31st, we’re going to have a Halloween night sleepover with our boys, complete with junk food and scary movies. Well, as scary as the youngest child (and his mother) can handle. We’ll each have our pick and roll with it, possibly in sleeping bags, more than likely not making it past midnight, potentially passing out during Beetlejuice or The Nightmare Before Christmas or Poltergeist or some other movie, making the best of a unique situation that has plagued us for most of 2020.

Scary movies got me thinking about scary things, in general. When I was a kid it was the zombie pets and children that come back to life in Pet Semetary, or the talon-like claws on the glove that Freddie Krueger wears in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and don’t get me started on not being able to sleep in my bed for a week after seeing The Exorcist. Those things had frightened me back then, but there are still some obvious fears in my life that have only become heightened the older I get. They are realistic and ever present, items that can’t be tucked away by sliding a VHS cassette tape into its case and sticking it onto a shelf.  

In no particular order, although I’m sure my family would disagree with me, given the way I act when having to face my fears head on:

My children like to show me videos of people walking on scaffolding hundreds of stories up in the air, or dare devils who go rock climbing without any safety gear, and they particularly get a kick out of showing me skydivers, blending two of my fears together, heights and flying, which I’ll get into a bit later. I put myself inside the shoes of those people, and my first instinct is to want to urinate in my pants. In fact, I know that would happen if I did anything of that nature. Which is funny, because I jumped out of a two story window when I was a preschooler because I’d seen friends playing outside while I was forced into taking a nap, and I got it into my head that the best way to accomplish playing with them was to scoot a chair to my bedroom window and jump out of it. Maybe my fear of heights began after that experience, I’m not sure.

I went hiking with my teenager not too long ago, and afterwards, as we’re getting into our car, a honeybee decides it wants to join us. My son loves to recount my reaction to this, arms flailing about, screams loud and high-pitched, filled with deep terror as I’m scooting over into his side of the passenger seat, trying to get away. He laughed at me the entire time. The bee decided it didn’t want to deal with my theatrics and went on its merry little way, but this experience brought out the intense fear I have of all things bee-related. Honeybees and bumblebees and hoverbees don’t bug me as much, because they do their own thing. But—and just thinking of it makes me sick to my stomach—wasps are just, I can’t even. They’re nasty. If I see one, I run.

I don’t have as strong of a fear of flying, so much as being high up in the air inside of a plane and not being able to see the ground while I’m doing it. I knock on the plane before I enter it, a superstitious ritual I learned from an ex who is in the military and would often fly for deployments and training purposes. I figure if he could survive all of his flights after knocking on the plane, I’d pick up on his habit. And that’s where it gets a bit silly. I make my husband do it, and my children, too. Every single time we’re on a plane, I make sure I’m the last one on out of our group, so I can visually see that they really do tap their knuckles to the aluminum siding.

Bad weather is not my friend. I don’t mind rain or thunder, and a little bit of wind never hurt nobody. But when it escalates into a full-blown storm and we’re told to batten down the hatches, I’m not a big fan of that. There’s not much of that out here in Arizona, not even with the monsoons that sweep up on us during the summer months. In fact, it’s a welcomed break from the intense 115 degree weather that we often see in June, July, and August. But we moved to Arizona from Nebraska and I spent fourteen years of my life there, some of that preparing for tornadoes and high-wind storms that could cause significant damage. No matter what time, usually in the early morning hours, we’d have to wake the boys up and move down to our basement, leaving the television on as long as we were able to if the weather didn’t cut the power, and usually it did, watching the latest news reports to see when it might be safe to go back up to the main level. I think it’s the loss of control I feel in dealing with poor weather. It doesn’t matter what I want, a tornado is going to do whatever a tornado wants to do.

It feels like the more we learn about the pandemic, the less we really know about the pandemic. Having a child with asthma has made me feel a lot more concerned about it, a need to protect and do what I can to keep him from getting sick. This is the kid who ends up with bronchitis after a simple cold, so I can't help but have real fear at the possibility of anyone in my family getting Covid-19. This extends out and into everything we do now, choosing not to go into public restaurants or venues where there might be a lot of people, choosing to do a lot more outdoor activities and at times, vetting those we know to make sure they’re practicing social distance, too. Everyone says it’s the “new normal,” but it doesn’t feel normal, not at all. It makes me miss the simplicity of my younger years, where the biggest fears I had on my plate were the boogeyman or Pinhead, from Hellraiser. 

I wish for the days where we can get back to normal.

Melissa Amster:

I am not one for horror movies, and while I used to be a fan of horror books, I mostly just read psychological thrillers now. As far as personal scary experiences, I could mention the time I was watching girls at camp play with a homemade Ouija board and someone made an announcement over the loudspeakers around the same time. Or I could talk about how I thought the house I was babysitting at was possessed, thanks to the baby monitor being on the wrong channel. However, I want to talk about some real life scary experiences....the two times my kids wandered off. 

The first time was at F.A.O. Schwarz in the summer of 2008. My oldest was almost three at the time. We had gone with family to New York City for the day and the famous toy store was one of our stops. While we were walking around, my oldest somehow wandered off. I was freaking out because I didn't see him anywhere! I also was carrying around my (now) middle child when he was a baby. My oldest thankfully went back to the place he had wandered from and we found him right there. I got so mad at him and made him sit in the stroller the rest of the time. He was upset with me over that, but I'd rather him be upset for a little while than gone forever. The experience tainted the rest of my day though.

Fast forward to 2015, when my youngest was four. We were visiting my family in the Chicago suburbs for Independence Day and everyone was walking to this big park to watch the fireworks. My youngest wanted to walk with my sister, which was fine with me. However, when we got to the park, she let go of my sister's hand and just kept walking. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I'm guessing she was looking for my husband or me. When we realized she wasn't with any of the adults in our group, we were frantic. Fortunately, she was smart enough to realize she was lost and she approached a police officer for help. My cousin was able to find her that way and bring her back to us. Of course, I was really upset with her for doing that and I will admit that I made her cry from my reaction. Going to see fireworks since that time has not been as enjoyable. 

I consider myself lucky that my kids had only wandered off for a short period of time, but thinking about what could have happened makes me feel terrified and panicky. 

What is something scary that has happened to you? We're all ears (or eyes, in this case).

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