My eldest son often tries to jump out at me or sneak up on me while I’m sitting unawares in another room. My reaction isn’t exactly what he intends, as a moment before he ever reaches me I say something to the extent of, “While you are sneaking around would you mind taking out the trash?” And with a smirk I watch him grumble and walk out of the room. I never jump at anything. In fact, I purposefully go to scary movies in order to try to get myself to feel that awkward induced fear that is elicited from horror or shocker films. Although, I refuse to see things like Hostel because it’s not a scary movie, it’s gore and it just makes me sick to my stomach, I’m thinking more of the movies that are made to grab hold of you and shake you to your core when you leave the theater. However, it hasn’t happened in many years.
So, a few days ago my son (after another unsuccessful attempt) asks me, “Mom? What are you afraid of?” He assumes I’m not afraid of anything. I shrug, “Plenty of things, I suppose.” Perplexed he responds with, “Well, like what??” I had to think of this, it’s hard to express this internal fear of something that doesn’t actually exist. “Me, I guess.” This puzzles him, I can see that in his eyes, but another part of him thinks I’m kidding around with him so I figure it deserves a better explanation. “I mean, I’m afraid of parts of myself. Afraid that there might be a day when I grow older and can’t remember, or lose my sense of reality: Dementia, Alzheimers, that sort of thing.” I can tell he doesn’t understand it, but he shrugs and gives off a confused, “Okay”. I smile. Moms are afraid of the real kind of creeping monsters that lurk inside of us all that no one can see, that dark place — similar to the dark side of the moon, that goes unbeknownst to most of us.
This wasn’t always the case. Many years ago, on a very hot summer visit to my Father’s, I rented a movie that still haunts me till this day. I haven’t ever re-watched it, even though I always sought the movie that would make me jump I never wanted to revisit the horror I felt at watching this particular film. It was made in 1987, and even tracing the movie back to get these images will probably taint me somehow, it’s called Dolls.
I remember this day well because it was my birthday and my Father had forgotten it. I hadn’t known at the time because he had taken us all out to get all the movies we wanted, popcorn and pizza – which was a real treat because we never had much. I picked out Dolls, even then I loved horror movies. We were all in love with Freddy Kruger and my eldest sister actually believed she was his girlfriend (long story), Jason never bothered us so what was a bunch of dolls? My Father was all dressed up to go on a date at the fanciest restaurant in that little part of Delaware, it was on a boat and they served these soft shelled crabs, he took us there before we had to go back home to my Mother’s. He was going on a date and it was my birthday, he felt awful, but I was really really excited about the pizza, popcorn and movies so I cheerfully pushed him out the door. I never got to stay up, my sister and I’s bedtime was 9pm so this was exciting for us. So my brother’s and we all curled up on a ton of blankets in the middle of the living room and watched movie after movie. The boys fell asleep before Dolls came on, my sister was barely holding on and I was entranced – horrified really – watching it.
After the movie was over I crept into my room and took out all my dolls, one by one, little ones and large ones; barbie dolls, stuffed animals – anything that had eyes really and laid them out side by side on my blanket. Then I would get paranoid that if I hugged one I had to hug them all, and so this went on all night long with realistically a hundred or so toys. Everyone woke up to find me in this pile, with barely any sleep, and I don’t remember anything after that other than the feeling. I continued on with this routine for years secretly, even though I was growing in my tween years. Then I began to just get rid of dolls until I had nothing with eyes at all. They frightened me. Now, although I am no longer afraid of these things, I cannot stand porcelain dolls or masks, I stay clear of them. It’s somehow embedded itself into my psyche to where I’m not even consciously aware of it until I actually sit down to think about that specific subject. Just like I don’t always realize how I turn on the bathroom light before I go in so I don’t have to see myself in the mirror in the dark.
So I tell my son about this Dolls fear and that he gets, dolls creep him out too; although now he wants to watch the movie and I have refused despite the fact that it’s from 1987 and probably is completely awful. It’s just like my Mother and the Exorcist, after something unnerves you, you can’t seem to bare to ever want to cope with it again. You aren’t exactly afraid of that thing, just like you can’t actually see certain mental illness fears, they just are there.. just underneath the skin.
Inland Empire by David Lynch is the only other thing that ever unnerved me. It gave me nightmares. Probably because the movie is a nightmare all in and of itself or at least it’s filmed (quite miraculously) in the exact way a dream sequence might run. I do not like that movie, it’s a good movie, but just something about it really really bothers me.
It’s late, a storm is sweeping by and I think on all my irrational fears my child will probably never understand. I had a nice laugh after the slightly serious tone regarding mental illnesses so he wouldn’t think I was actually going to all the sudden lose my ability to think straight. I poke fun at him when he tries again to make me jump or freak me out. I’ve long ago got over my concern about being emotionally unbalanced with fear and sorrow, I think it was just the world that I grew up in that made me more controlled in those emotions. I’m glad that he can be afraid though, sometimes I think it must be a lot of fun to have your adrenaline rush like that.
Here’s to good dreams to those of you sleeping, hopefully your fears won’t find you.