Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Scariest Childhood Memory

Children view the world in a very different way than adults.  If you've ever read the picture book Shortcut by Donald Crews, or seen the movie Stand By Me (I mention the movie since I haven't read Stephen King's novella The Body upon which it is based), you know what I mean.  When you experience a truly scary event as a child, it's like putting a pin in your life map.  Whether or not it was earth-shattering, you view it with a somber seriousness, a memory you don't really kid about.  Children don't have the world experience to put events into perspective - how serious was it?  Was it really as terrifying as it seemed at that moment?

In Shortcut, Crews tells a story about being warned by Big Mama not to take the shortcut home, but the kids do anyway.  They are fooling around on the train tracks, have to decide whether to turn back and go the right way, and they decide to go on with the shortcut.  Of course, the train comes, and the children have a very close call.  It's very edge-of-your-seat for little guys, with the train KLICKETY-KLAKing closer and closer (the font gets bigger and bigger, it's great).  Once the train goes past, they complete their journey in silence.  They don't ever talk about it.  And they never.  Take the shortcut.  Again.

Stand By Me is a coming of age story about four best friends who go searching for the dead body of a boy killed by a train.  The story is more about the journey, but once they find it, the movie comes to a close by describing their lives afterward, what happened to each of the boys as they grew up, etc.  Their lives are sort of forever divided into Before The Body and After The Body.

My scariest childhood memory doesn't have anything to do with bodies or close calls with trains, but I can tell you that when and after it happened, it was more serious to a 9 or 10 year old me than anything.

At the time, we were living in a rowhome (aka townhouse, houses that are attached on both sides to other houses).  Our house was right next to the corner house.  About halfway down across the street lived friends of our family. Their house was for sale. They were getting ready to move and my mom and younger sister and I had walked down from our house to visit.  They didn't have any children my age, so I got bored and decided to go home. 

On the way home, a man that I had never seen before came up to me.  He asked me if I had ever been in the house that was for sale.  I don't know if he had seen me come out of the house, but I said yes.  He asked me how many bedrooms and bathrooms it had, and I told him.  He asked me if I lived nearby.  Now, at this moment, I was honestly thinking that he was trying to find out if I lived in a similar house so I knew what I was talking about, but a warning went off in my head and I just said, "Yeah, down there," and waved in the general direction of my house.  He nodded and kept walking down the street.  I ran to my end but did actually have the sense not to let him watch me go into my house.  I think I just hung out outside for a while.

My mom and sister came home later and didn't mention any man coming to look at our friends' house, so I began to get scared.  I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over to decide if I had given him too much information.  That night, I listened to every little creak in the house and couldn't sleep.

I guess I did fall asleep eventually.  When I woke up in the morning, I was still nervous, but it was a bright, sunny day, and nothing had happened during the night.  I wondered if I had gotten myself too worked up.  I went downstairs.  Our stairs led right to the front door, so if you were coming down, you had a view out the little windows in the door.  I stopped short on the stairs when I saw him.

The man from the day before was sitting on our front steps.  Just sitting there.  I ran to get my mom and I asked her if she knew who he was.  She didn't.  I remember her frowning and looking out the window but not going outside.  Eventually, he got up and left. 

We never saw him again, but I spent probably the next entire month of my life sick to my stomach with terror.  I thought for sure that the guy was going to do something to us or to our friends down the street and I couldn't tell anyone what had happened because if someone got killed it would have been my fault.  Try living with that on a 9 yr old conscience!  Our friends moved soon after, and I was so relieved, but then I worried about the people who moved in.  I didn't stop worrying until more than a year later when we also moved.  WHEW!

This story just reminded me of another scary thing that happened when I was even younger.  We lived in a big house, just my mom and my sisters and me (before the rowhome).  The deck off of our kitchen was a full story from the ground, so it had a full flight of wooden steps to the ground.  One night, I had to be maybe 5?  6?  7?  I went to the kitchen in the dark to get something.  I heard a creak on the deck stairs.  I turned on the light and looked out the window in the kitchen door.  A man was coming up the deck stairs in the dark.  When he saw the light come on and my face look out of the curtain, he stopped, about halfway up the steps, waved at me, then turned and went back down the steps and then he was gone.  Spooky!!!!

Do you have any scary childhood memories?


Lisa Marie Miles said...

Wow, you creeped me out with both of those stories. Glad nothing happened to you or your friends.

When I was about 6 or 7 I was walking home from school by myself when a guy in a car pulled up along side me and told me to get in the car. It looked just like my aunts car, so I asked him if it was. Of course he said yes. Then a bell went off in my brain and I heard the words my mom and grandma repeated to me everyday: Never talk to strangers. I ran home screaming my head off.

I think I'll go lock the doors:)

aspiring_x said...

ohmy! those are terrifying stories! thank goodness nothing came of it!!

Quinn said...

Creepy stories.

There was a time when I was young and a serial killer had broken out of jail and was sighted in my area (he had relatives in the area that supposedly had his money). That was pretty scary.

Old Kitty said...

Oh no you poor thing!! These are really scary things to happen to a child - my goodness!! Very creepy! I'm just glad you are all ok! Phew!!

Me and my friend watched Stand by Me about a zillion times! We were both crazy about River Phoenix - poor soul!! But yes - that was one film that captured the terror of growing up. I really must read the story!

My sisters used to scare me all the time cos they're older and I'm the youngest!

Take care

Theresa Milstein said...

You are so right about those pinpricks of childhood. I wonder what my children's scary memories will be.

My traumas were mostly movie-related. I was petrified from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET (don't ask). And in fourth-grade, they had us watch concentration camp Holocaust footage, which traumatized me so much I couldn't sleep for days. It took away my innocence, realizing that there were real life monsters.

Olivia J. Herrell said...

Scar-y! *shivers* Glad nothing worse happened!

~that rebel, Olivia

Alexandra Crocodile said...

Wow - those were some creepy memories! Can't say that I have that many scary memories (thankfully), at least not that traumatic!

C. N. Nevets said...

I've actually been thinking about this since yesterday, and it's really weird, but I think I wasn't scared that often as a kid. When I was, it usually usually about emotional trauma. I don't think I thought I was invincible. I didn't get into that much crazy stuff. I was just a pretty rational, curious kind of little guy, so most things didn't frighten me.

Now that I'm older and have a wife and actual goals, and have worked on crime scenes and on the ambulance, I've been scared a lot more. lol