My Childhood Imagination: The Torment It Caused Me

Courtesy of HyenaReality/
As a kid, I annoyed my parents by making up things to frighten me.  What can I say?  I have an active imagination, and, when I was little, it often ran all over me.  Noises in the night became monsters creeping up on me.  I recall events from my childhood that terrified me beyond anything my child's mind could handle.  Some of these events should dwell in my family's memory, too, but for some reason, I've discovered I'm the only one who remembers.

For example, someone, or thing, used to shake the basement door to the back yard so hard that it felt like the house shook on its foundations. It happened night after night. I'll never forget it.  We didn't know what was down there, but I knew if it got in, it only had to walk straight up the stairs and across the hall into my bedroom.  Tell me that's not enough to frighten a kid.  I have a distinct memory of my brother needing to take out the garbage, which of course was through the basement door, and this shaking starting up. From my bed, where I was supposed to be asleep, I listened to my parents trying to figure out what it was, fear evident in my mother's voice, but that's all I remember. I asked Mom about this memory once, and she didn't recall any of it. I'm pretty sure my brother took the garbage out.

One night, I woke to see the shadow of a cat through our bedroom curtains.  Not a sitting cat, mind you.  One standing up on its feet like Jinx or Tom (of Tom and Jerry fame).  He had his arms raised in attack position.  I can STILL see this in my memory, as plain as if it happened today.

Is it no wonder I got labeled as a scaredy-cat as a child?

Most of the time, what frightened me grew out of my own imagination.  Writers have vivid imaginations.  We have to in order to create the worlds our characters inhabit.  For me, these early experieinces were a torment.  I can't tell you how many nights I lay awake with the covers pulled up to my nose, my gaze riveted on the bedroom doorway.  Any minute, I knew something would explode through that door and attack me.  I wanted to run to my parents' room for safety, but that meant crossing the threshold of the doorway and trying to make it to their room unscathed.  I'm sure my parents thought I appeared in their room too many times, but what they don't know is how many more times I frightened myself beyond the ability to move.

All I could do was watch the door.

What about you?  Were you easily frightened as a child?  As an adult?  Or were you the kid who plowed forward, fearless and brave?


Wayne G said…
Hi Barbara. Everyone has those childhood moments. When I was very little we had a basement under the house. In a back corner there was a small window that allowed the late afternoon sun to dimly come in. under the window were some dried weeds that had somehow managed to grow at some earlier time. very spooky.
My two older brothers, being older brothers, told me that an Indian was buried there and it was haunted. I was afraid and at the same time I was certain that my brothers were pulling my leg. Nothing would do but to make myself crawl back to that terrible place and sit there for awhile. I summoned all the nerve that I could muster and crawl there I did. I was pretty sure that at any moment I would be confronted by the ghost of an Indian. Nothing happened. I was never afraid to go there after that. I wasn't fearless or brave, just determined. Wayne G.
Uncle Wayne,knowing my other uncles as I do, it doesn't surprise me one bit that they told you that story. I later found out as an adult that neither one of my parents ever felt comfortable in our basement if they were alone. Some places are just that way.

I'm glad to know you didn't get attacked by an Indian ghost.
Henry said…
I hated the basement at night. It was huge and dark and filled with strange sounds. The only light was the one on the stairs, which only lit up the very bottom of the stairs and the door to the backyard. (Of course, there were two doors to the backyard, the other being off in the deep darkness.)

As the only boy in the family, it always fell to me to take the trash from the kitchen down to the garbage cans in the backyard. And the kitchen trash only filled up after dark. How I managed to avoid being murdered during those trips to the basement, I'll never know.
Henry, I think all of us hated it, but Mom and Dad weren't willing to share this with us. I can't blame them. We had to go down there for many things. It's one reason I didn't practice the piano much until we moved. I just couldn't bring myself to go down there alone.

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