Back to Scaredy Pants. I believe I can blame being afraid of everything on my big sister. She was a clever one, she was.
Terry and I shared a room until she started high school. My brother was at the end of the hall. One night she flattened herself way down into the bed and put her pillow over her head. She started booing like a ghost. “Woooooooo --- Debi…. This is the voice of Jeeeeeee—sus. My ghosts are in Randy’s room and they are wringing his neck.” I started to cry even though I had no idea what "wringing his neck" meant. I envisioned her set of bangle bracelets being put over his head one at a time. Why that scared the pee out of me, I don’t know, but she was one scary Jesus and I wasn’t going to second guess the fact that He had His ghosts in Randy’s room. I hadn’t learned about them in Sunday school yet. Terry’s five-year head start on Sunday school made her an expert. I wouldn’t question her. Of course, I never really questioned anything she said, especially when she was scaring the pee out of me. Finally, after letting me sob it out and I was literally begging for mercy, she shoots up from the bed, pillow flying out from her head, and cheerfully whisper-yells, “I’m just kidding. There are no ghosts! It’s me.” I’d be so relieved (not literally) I considered her my hero for saving my life. I’d calm down and go to sleep. All was well until the very next night when she’d do it all over again. I don’t really know how many times this happened. It was more than twice and I still can’t figure out why the heck I was so gullible. Good thing I continued my Biblical studies. I found out she was lying about the ghosts.
When I was little I was prone to nightmares. I ran down our upstairs hallway more than once. One time I was being chased by bulls – another time it was spiders.
My worst nightmare was an interactive fiasco. It happened not long after I received my fake Patty Playpal doll. Her name was Roberta. That Christmas, everyone asked for the 3 foot tall, life-like Patty Playpal doll that walked when you took her hand. My folks could not afford Patty. Roberta was found at the local Tradewell grocery store in boxes on top of the ice cream freezer. I am sure they were ¼ the price of a Patty Playpal, and for most kids, getting a Roberta doll was like getting Carob chips in your chocolate chip cookies. Yuck. Roberta was okay by me -- although she was crippled. I took her hand to walk and she fell over while I dragged her through the house. She didn’t mind and neither did I. Instead of long silky hair with a headband, Roberta had short kinky hair that smelled like a new vinyl couch. She did have beautiful blue eyes that moved and shut and had eyelashes so thick and lush. They looked like the brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner. I loved to ruffle them with my fingers. Roberta stood in my bedroom when I was not dragging her around, and after the first few rapturous months with her, she stood there a lot.
Not long after she started her stand-up routine, my real friend Patti (who had a REAL Patty Playpal as well as a Chatty Cathy) invited me to go to a movie with her. Now, real Patti’s parents were much older than my parents and for some odd reason thought it was okay to take children to horror movies. Many times they took us to the drive-in where I had to endure a double feature. At least it was easier to close my eyes without being found out. But this particular invitation was for the matinee where we viewed, “Village of the Damned.” This was a black and white film that took place in England somewhere, making it just as scary to me as the Transylvanian and Frankenstein crap. I about lost my stuff over those old movies. I don’t really remember anything about the Village but I do remember that the children all had the power to make anything happen and they were only into doing evil things. The most memorable scene to me was when an old car passed by the group of children and their eyes all lit up with a wicked eeriness causing the car to crash roll over and burst into flames. I don’t know what the passengers in the car had done to cause their own demise, but it was clear to me that one did not piss off these kids. Woe-is-me to the parent who bought them a Roberta doll instead of a Patty Playpal!!! I know I have blocked out the rest of the movie. I stayed over night at Patty’s and did not have a nightmare over that movie – at least that night. I’m assuming it’s because real Patti’s mom fed us every kind of sweet and soda that was invented at that time. I’d do anything to eat at her house and play with her real dolls, her Presto paints, silly putty, and Colorforms. But the next night, snug in my own bed with the streetlight coming through my window, it was a different story. Something awakened me during the night. When I sat up, that streetlight was glowing in Roberta’s eyes. Roberta was from “The Village!” I screamed loud enough to wake the neighborhood and scare the ghosts out of my sister, Jesus. I didn’t learn my lesson that night. It was many horror movies later, the last entitled, “The FIesh Eaters” that caused another Richter-scaled nightmare that made me finally confess to my parents about my movie viewing habits at Patti’s house. My overnights at Patti’s stopped. My relationship with Roberta was revived. In fact, I kept her until one Halloween in 1991 when I came home from shopping to see my children’s pumpkins lit up on the porch and Roberta was hanging naked from the tree with nail-polish blood dripping down her eyes. I wonder what the Goodwill people thought when they opened that box…
Movies continued to feed my fear throughout the years. In 1974 when the commercials for “The Exorcist” first appeared on TV, I was scared spitless. I had a horrible time getting the mysterious, haunting ads out of my head when I went to bed. I gave in and went to the movie, only to find the movie was less frightening than the commercial. Later, the same year, it took a bottle of Strawberry Fields to get me through “Jaws.” I didn’t normally imbibe in spirits. We were double dating with a couple that brought some beer and wine to the Drive-in. Every time the now infamous shark music started, I took a gulp of that nasty stuff. This movie made me a believer in the medicinal qualities of a cheap 99-cent bottle of wine.
Not much has changed. I’m not so afraid of the super-natural horror films. I’m more terrified from anything that could really happen. The 1974 film, Earthquake, was scary. War films are horrendous and anything bloody and gory like Gladiator is enough to make me drink Strawberry Fields again. Gladiator was particularly awful for me. My husband and son sat with eyes and ears glued to the screen. Normally, my tee shirt trick gets me through the visual abuse of a gory movie. I simply pull my tee shirt up over my eyes and filter the picture. It works so well, I’ve often wondered if I couldn’t sell a theater novelty – Tee Shirt Glasses. Instead of 3-D lenses, I could replace the lens with Tee shirt material…In fact; I could offer a set of 3 for $20. Your choice of colors! But as I sat filtering The Gladiator, I realized I’d need to sell matching earplugs. The sound effects of metal prickly balls hitting a skull were just too much. So there I sat with my Tee Shirt over my face and my ears plugged as I softly hummed Amazing Grace and The Barney Song. Mercifully, I fell asleep and did not have to endure the torture.
It seems I stayed fairly fearful for years. But somewhere along the line I decided to face some of my fears starting with the man looking in the window while I was in the second floor bathroom using the toilet. In my childhood home, we had a bathroom with a window right by the toilet. I often sat there in the daylight and watched the tall Douglas fir trees down the street sway in the winter wind. It was much more satisfying than doing my mom’s crossword’s while doing my business. But come the darkness, doing my business became a matter of life and death. The minute my bum hit the commode, my heart started pounding, I broke out in a sweat and constipation was immediate. I knew that someone was on the kitchen roof, standing right out side my bathroom window. I’d hide my eyes, force the “issue” and get out of there as fast as I could. Running down the stairs, I’d hear my mother yell, Debi, slow down, already, you’re going to fall. Are you kidding?” Would she rather I be caught and bound with my pants around my legs by a poop loving peeping Tom?” Crimaninny! I was pretty proud of myself one night when I’d finally had enough of poop-peeping Tom. Focused as never before, I did my duty, washed my hands and with great bravery (and no tee-shirt glasses) ripped open the curtains so I could scare the bajeebuds out of Tom. Surprise! No one was there. I wasn’t easily convinced, though. It took many more times before I finally realized Tom must have moved on (no pun intended.)
Now, I’m pretty much not afraid of anything. I’ve come to understand that fear is not a productive feeling. I believe that God is Love. Love is the opposite of fear, so where Love exists, fear cannot. God conquers all fear. But, what the hay? It still wouldn’t hurt to carry my Tee shirt glasses around.