Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fraidy Cat

To say I am easily spooked, would be like saying Itzhak Perlman plays little violin ditties well: the understatement of the century.  I never progressed beyond age five in the bravery department. My one and only horror movie, The Exorcist, was attended just because I was dating Steve—a crowd was going to the midnight show and I didn't want to wimp out. Luckily, in the darkness, no one could tell my eyes were shut and my ears plugged.

The Screamer
As you can imagine, I made the ideal parent. Every stomach bug was the plague, every fever, meningitis. When baby Sheridan slept too little, Evan too much, Rosie not at all; when toddler PJ chose screaming over speaking, and newborn Julie failed to respond to sound as much as I felt she should, something was always capital W Wrong. I'm surprised Dr. Lockman didn't add a nuisance charge to the Seyfried bill for all my extra calls and questions over the years.

The kids’ teens gave me ample opportunities to be fearful. Sher, at 18, moved downtown to an apartment, solo (Curtis did not have dorms). I tried not to think of the peril he undoubtedly put himself in, but thought of little else. One night, late, he called to "chat."  I enjoyed our phone visit at first. When conversational topics ran out, and we were looping back to The Weather, Take Two, and still he talked...something was capital W Wrong! Finally, he said, "I just turned my key in the lock, Mom, I'm home. There were two weird guys walking behind me all the way from the train station, and I felt safer talking to you." "Oh, honey…" I began, horrified. "OK bye," he hung up, next stop Dreamland. I, of course, was awake all night.

Rose and some of the sinister people of Thailand
When Rosie went to Thailand as a high school junior, my fears for her general well-being were legion. Rose tried to calm me with her description of Chiang Rai as totally safe, and the Thai people as gentle and completely non-violent--but I wasn't buying it. She came home at last, with nothing but the most wonderful stories of her year in Asia.

You'd think after that, I might lighten up a tad when she decided on college in Boston. Not a chance. Just before her departure, I sought out mace or something similar. I was surprised to find that the likeliest local spot to purchase was a nearby gun shop. I crept in, looking quite the opposite of a seasoned firearms buff, and asked the clerk if they carried pepper spray. His immediate response? "Where is your daughter going to college?" Wow, how did he know?

Needless to say, I don't think Rosie carried the pepper spray once. She has never agreed with my vision of the world as a Dark and Frightening Place--and neither have the other kids.

How much of life is perception? Why is my perception often skewed in a negative direction?

When will I stop being so scared?

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