Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The root of my fears


Let me start by saying, I grew up on a ranch in the heart of Texas, the Hill Country. It wasn't a huge, working cattle ranch, like Poineer Woman, but it was 100 acres with pastures, barns, a bluff, a dammed up creek and plenty of livestock and wildlife. I lived there until I was eleven.


My Strongest Childhood Fears:


1) The Rattlesnake. I don't know the story behind it (who shot it and where, what happened), but my parents had a real, stuffed rattlesnake that had been shot, taxidermied and displayed in our house. It was about 5 feet long and coiled up, ready to strike. To a little girl, it might as well have been a ten foot tall monster, a nightmare ready to come to life at any moment, something I ran past, not walked, inspired fear in the heart...well, not to all little girls, though, because my little sister, who is two and half years younger than I am, had no problem touching it, moving it around, playing with it. In fact, I remember her placing it under the covers of our house keeper/live-in nanny's bed. And, I remember that poor woman, let's call her Maria, screaming in horror when she found it. My sister wasn't being mean or malicious, just having fun...a trait she inherited from our mother, which is another story altogether for another day.


This snake inspired a nightmare, a reoccurring nightmare I had throughout my childhood, where I was alone in the ranch house, the doorbell rang, I answered the door and lo and behold, the snake was there and chased after me. It was a horrible, horrible dream and to this day when I get super anxious or stressed, snakes show up in my dreams, chasing me. I shudder even now, thinking about it.


2) Pool Drains. As I mentioned above, we had a dammed up creek on our property, very deep and big. My mom was worried about us drowning, so she made us fear water. I don't know what she told us or how she scared us, but I was scared of water and this made learning to swim a challenge, but I did and loved swimming. However, for some reason, I have a huge fear of drains...which are almost always in the deep end. I don't know if I fear being sucked in or fear something coming out of it...I don't know if I saw a movie that scared me or if this is some lingering affect from my childhood conditioning...note to self, find out how mom scared us away from water...


3) Tarantulas. I remember my dad driving us to school one morning, stopping in the middle of the road, hopping out of the car and coaxing a tarantula (huge, hairy spider) into a jar. These jars would end up in our freezer and then onto the display (with the rattlesnake). Eventually I realized the freezer was to kill the spider without harming it's body, so it was intact for display, but opening a freezer and seeing a huge hairy spider is a total freak out for some little girls (read here, NOT my little sister). My parents had some kind of weird fascination with poisonous creatures, I think.


4) The Dark. As is normal for lots of kids, I feared the dark. And, in the country, it is DARK. No streetlights, no city lights, no lights except the moon. And, our ranch house was a typical ranch house...long, one story, lots and lots of windows and sliding glass doors in just about every door that led outside. In fact, every night, before bed, my dad went from room to room making sure all doors were locked. Now, my room was on the opposite end of the house from my parents' room. So, if I woke up scared in the middle of the night, I had to run the length of the house to get to my parents. Oh, I ran alright, ran as fast as I could, leaping from my bed, so that whatever was underneath couldn't grab me, then ducking so that whatever was out there in the dark couldn't see me as I streaked by. I was propelled by pure, 100% fear.
I think I've mostly conquered my fears now. I can walk around my house in the dark without running or freaking out. I can touch a snake (as long as someone else is holding it) and I don't think I'd run screaming if I saw a tarantula. I swim fine in a lake or pool...although I try not to linger over the drain, I admit.

15 comments:

CHATTI PATTI said...

OMG....I've always feared pool drains! While others were diving to the bottom to see who could touch the pool drain first, I sat in fear watching, hoping no one would get sucked in. I hate pool drains!

Rhea said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one, Chatti Patti! There are more neurotic peole out there besides me. :o)

Kat said...

When I was growing up in Florida, we used to have an assortment of "pets." Everything from snakes (including Rattlesnakes) to owls. Our washer and dryer was in our garage...and my mom always talks about going out there to do laundry and listening to the rattle going. Between that...and learning to swim in lakes that might or might not have alligators...I can't think of much that I am afraid of.

Rhea said...

Oh, Kat, a live rattlesnake as a pet, that definitely trumps a dead one. ICK. Swimming in lakes with the possibility of alligators is definitely intimidating! We had the possibility of water mocasains but alligators are must bigger with more teeth. yikes.

keri mikulski :) said...

Rhea, great post and pic! I'm with you on the tarantulas, snakes, and dark. As a child, I was a scaredy cat. I swore an alligator lived underneath our house. BTW, I lived in New Jersey. :) My big brother probably told me that one.

Rhea said...

An alligator under the house? That IS scary to a little kid. Big brothes are fun like that. lol

Kim said...

I'm afraid of black widows. We get them in our son's sandbox all the time. We combat them with chemical warfare! I'm not letting any potentially fatal spider bite my son!

I also don't like being outside alone when it's dark out.

Irene said...

Wow. Interesting fears.

I was born and bred in the city, Los Angeles. I feared three things as a kid ... water, the dark and losing my Mom. For some reason I was afraid of the water and never did learn to swim. My big brother swam like a fish, but not me.

Fear of the dark and losing my Mom were huge. I slept with a night light on until I was in my teens and forced myself to sleep without one so I could go away to summer camp. And from the age of 5 until around 8 or 9 I was afraid my Mom would leave and never return. My poor Mom could never go anywhere because I would freak out. I was a mess at school too, wanting to come home and crying until I made myself sick. She had no idea why and neither did I. Strange the things we obsess about as kids.

Stacie said...

Cool post! I remember growing up in the country in Ohio, and how dark it got at night.

Emily said...

Rhea,
Thanks so much for your comment and your support. I'm very sad about my kitten. :( I checked out your blog and it's really interesting. I'm adding you to my "favorite blogs" list! :)

Rhea said...

Oh, Kim, black widows in the sandbox, not cool at all! That would freak me out a little.

Irene, that's so weird about your fear of losing your mom, if nothing you know really triggered it. I wonder if you saw something as a young child and don't remember it. Goodness.

Stacie, people don't know true dark until they've experienced a country night, you know?

Emily, it's so hard to lose a pet. Our lab is such a part of our family. Hang in there.

Thanks everyone for coming by!

becca said...

Hey! Thanks for stopping by my blog... This is a great post!
I remember the terrible fears of my childhood: the dark and these monsters in/on our walls...
The dark was a real thing to me, like it could reach out and grab me although I was also afraid of the monster hiding in the dark. In the house I grew up in we had wood paneling, and the knots and natural wood markings would look like there were things in the walls trying to reach out and grab you- there was a swirl/knot in the door of our closet that looked like a woman ghost reaching out with a long arm. And in the wall over my bed there was a swirl that looked like a demented monster rabbit. My sister and I were talking about these recently and realized we both had nightmares about these swirls- and my mom walked in on this conversation and was shocked she'd never known....

Rhea said...

Oh, wow, wood knots and swirls looking like ghosts and monster rabbits, that is scary! How funny both you and your sister never talked about and your mom had no idea. lol

Blue Castle said...

I share all your fears. Especially rattlesnakes and pool drains. Ewwwww. I admit it, I'm a wuss. :)

Rhea said...

I'm a wuss too, Blue Castle! But, I put on a brave face most of the time...lol

Thanks for coming by!