Scared of the Dark

I just had a “late night” out with my seven year old. 9:15 p.m. is probably not categorized as “late” for the majority of the population, but for my little one it certainly was late for being out of the house, and for this mom who scarcely leaves the house after bedtime, it was refreshingly late. As we walked out of the movie theatre, I was surprised to see a little light still lingering in the clouds; it was a really pretty evening sky.

I might have an obsession with light. I told my husband our real estate agent was going to think I was nuts when we were trying to decide on a house to buy a few years ago. “Well, I’m going to need to check this lot out at various times of the day,” I told our real estate agent and our builder. “I’ve been here at 10:30 a.m., but I’ll need to see what the sun does here around 5:00.” It was maybe 3:30 in the afternoon. I think eyebrows were raised and glances exchanged. I’m ok with being the crazy lady; I’ve pretty much always worn “weird” as a proud badge.

In college I lived in a super cute basement apartment for a year. But it wasn’t until I moved out that I realized I had lived in a slight winter depression at that apartment. The sun came in through the kitchen windows in the morning and it was so pretty seeing the sun cut through the trees and light up the woods as I sat at the breakfast table. But afternoons were dark and dreary because we had no windows on the back side of the apartment. I still get the heebie jeebies at the 5:00 witching hour and need to just go outside and see the light of day for a while before nighttime sets in.

To be perfectly honest, not only am I obsessed with light, but I’m also a big ol’ scaredy cat. Totally afraid of the dark. And scary movies. And desolate places. I have no idea how I pull off being a mom. I guess I just put on a good front to keep the kids positive when they are scared.

I gave myself a big pep talk when I went to go see one of the suspense movies with college roommates at the Georgia Theatre years ago. I think it was I Know What You Did Last Summer.  I was half-way through my pep talk, munching on popcorn, telling myself it’s just a movie and its fake, when suddenly something brushed up against my back. I jumped a foot out of my seat as a handful of popcorn went flying into the face of the girl passing my seat behind me! And for the remainder of the semester, I kept my shower curtain pulled back so I could always see into my shower to make sure the boogey man wasn’t there.

I always thought I’d feel more secure, more wise, and more brave the older I got, but I look back on my twenties and think, “damn! I was pretty brave back then!” The semester I lived in Germany I planned to visit a high school friend in Muenster. I borrowed my boyfriend’s Citroen “duck” (kind of a squared-off VW bug shaped car with a most unique manual gear shift) and drove the two hours of the Autobahn to Muenster. Yo, this was before cell phones. I had a map and a car that actually leaked in the rain that I had learned to drive only weeks before. Wet knees aside, I successfully made it to Muenster. I parked in a parking lot near a church and walked to the center of town. As there were no (affordable international) cell phones back in this time (ok I didn’t have an actual cellphone at all, just an emergency “car phone” I kept in the glove box that cost about three dollars per minute to use, I had to just meet my friend “at the Cathedral” as we had planned via email two days prior. After waiting for forty-five minutes I went walking around to see if I could find him. After another hour or so, I finally gave up, ate some dinner and decided to leave. BUT … it was even darker now and quite late. The further away I walked from the town center, the quicker my pace became. By the time I could see the one puny streetlight in the parking lot I felt like there was an axe murderer behind me ready to strike at my weakest moment. I had keys in hand ready to unlock the door as soon as I found the little green car. Finally I could see it but still had to make it another fifty yards, palms sweating, hoping I could out-race-walk my axe murderer or bear or coyote or boogeyman breathing down my neck. It felt like an eternity until I could stick the key in the door, unlock it, slam it shut, lock out the damn bear, and start the ignition to speed away from the headless horseman. I’m pretty positive I blocked out the dark and scary drive home, whether there was sufficient gas in the tank to get back without stopping, and where I parked the car when I got home. Not to mention the dark and dungeoney entrance to my apartment.

So, yes, light is very important to me. I’m just a big ol’ scaredy cat. And I’m certain I have passed my scared-of-the-dark DNA onto my child. Naturally I have empathy for my poor girl’s fear. I tried to enjoy 4th of July fireworks, but with my little one anxiously yearning to go home, it was difficult. After the first three booms of beautiful fireworks, with lightning flickering on the horizon, Ellie was ready to head to the safety of the beach house away from the darkness, unsettling explosions, and impending thunderstorm. She was just recovering from the 4th when we went camping in North Carolina. The first day it downpoured as we ate dinner huddled under tarps. Ellie begged not to sleep in the tent. The mere idea of a flimsy piece of cloth between her little body and the big, wide, scary world! Inconceivable! So we “slept” in the car that night.

I guess Ellie will be obsessed with light like I am. Or maybe only as a child. Knowing her, she’ll grow up by a few years and become a brave and wise adventurer. (If she drives across Europe in a borrowed car I will just vomit in fear of her safety!) So for now, I’m glad to be her protector. And as we walked out of the movie theater together, I took pleasure in Ellie’s sweet little sigh of relief when she saw those silvery clouds and announced, “Good! It’s still a little bit light out!”

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