I used to be afraid of the dark but then I became a mother.
Although I was never afraid of bugs, bats, snakes or small woodland animals, stopping to pet the huge German shepherd who barked his head off up the street was not an option. My brother and I spent hours making haunted houses in a crawl space under the stairs where luggage was stored. String was strung as spider webs, marbles resembled eyeballs, cooked spaghetti felt like brains, and towels draped over musty luggage body-doubled as creatures of the night. My brother and I added our own eerie soundtrack as we led our younger sister and her friends through our Homemade House of Horror. The little girls shrieked and we fell over in hysterics.
As teenagers, hysterics are what kept my friend and I awake during sleepovers. We’d rent one scary movie after another. What a release it was to scream and then crack up. My friend’s mom would sit at the top of the stairs pleading, “Girls, that’s enough noise. Go to bed!” Friday the 13th, The Exorcist, Psycho, Halloween—we couldn’t get enough. One night, my friend’s younger brother played a trick on us. After a gory scene involving the removal of a beating heart, my friend and I had to use the bathroom. Next to the sink was a box with a bloody heart! We freaked out. (“Girls, please!”) That “heart”, sitting in a shoebox, was actually a paper towel ball soaked in red food coloring. Hon, he got us good!
Fast forward to a recent hike my husband and I took in the Adirondacks. Was that a rubber toy sitting on the forest floor? My friend’s brother was nowhere in sight so I knew it was real. A black rattlesnake was coiled by the path and nervously eyeing us and another couple. My husband was “spooked” (his word) by the snake. He cut a wide path around it and warned me that it could unfurl its whole body and strike any minute, so stop taking pictures—please!
All I could think was, “Awww, poor thing is scared.” And, “Ooh, let me see how close I can get.” A germ of a fantasy entered my head: I was starring in a show on Animal Planet named “Naomi the Nature Girl.” In the first episode I encountered a black rattlesnake on a hike and deftly picked it up. Its rattle stopped rattling and its eyes stopped darting. In my hands, the snake sensed that he (or she—but really, who can tell? Oh yeah–me because I’m the “Nature Girl.”) was safe. I put him down and he slithered away. Cool snake, cool show.
Back to reality. My husband urged me to keep walking…fast. I didn’t feel one ounce of fear or one iota of dread. My husband, on the other hand, warned everyone on the trail, increasing the estimated size of the Rattler from 5 to 6 to 7 or maybe even 8 feet (!) with every person we passed. I’m not judging, but he won’t get his own television show.
I do have fears. I’m afraid of war, car accidents and certain food (pickled herring in white sauce comes to mind). The state of the economy, animals becoming extinct and world relations are huge causes of worry. A black rattlesnake that just wants to be left alone? No problem!
Hon, what are you afraid?