Tuesday, October 30, 2007


On the way back from the haunted house, Mia said, "Do you want to see a cloud that looks like a monster head?"

Nora tried to add, "In a. . . In a. . . "

We all knew what she was thinking so we waited for her to say, "sink" because that was the horrific image from the last haunted room that we scooted through before hitting the emergency exit early. Nora ended up with the word "car" so I'm hoping her memory is fading already.

"Mommy, why are you crying?" asks Mia from the backseat.

"I'm not, I'm laughing," and I was. Randy was shaking with laughter, too, at the absurdity of it all.

He whispers, "I thought when you said 1 to 4, that was the age limit!"

I say, "It was in a church!"

What were we thinking? You have to give us this credit: the haunted house was in a church, well in the church school gymnasium. The article in the paper said they covered up all the scary images with sheets during the daytime children hours. One of the organizers even said she had been taking her son since he was two.

I'm sorely tempted to picture this two year old in all his America's Testosterone Home Videos glory, naked except for his Pull-up, doing karate chops while the grownups laugh on the couch. But that would be no more fair and no more kind than trying to foist our responsibility for walking in that church onto his poor mom.

While we were walking through the dark hallways, me carrying Nora, Randy with Mia in his arms, a flashlight-carrying kid just this side of adolescence leading the way, I felt the beginnings of my own horrors - the fear of giving your own child an indelibly awful image, of not being able to comfort her fears so easily anymore, of opening her world to formerly unimagined grownup things.

So Randy and I became the jolliest of underworld guides.

"Oh look, it's train-tracks! Let's go across!"

"Oh, isn't this room beautiful?! It looks like outer space!"

"Oh how funny! We have to get out of this room through the fireplace! Isn't that funny?"

We rushed by the lumps covered with white sheets, but they did have to leave uncovered the latex head coming up out of the sink, didn't they?

The girls have been processing that image for days. Mia telling Miss Molly at school on Monday, "There was a head coming out of the sink!" Nora mixing up "sink" with "potty" when she tells the story.

"I never want to go to a haunted house ever again!" says Mia. "Well, you don't have to!" we cheer.

The kind of brave I want my girls to be now is brave enough to share. Brave enough to stay with the nice neighbor mommy and her son for two hours while I go to Montessori Observation Day. Brave enough to try a new thing, like a bit of roasted cauliflower or miso soup. Brave enough to say, "I ate the candy."

Translate the grownup concept of Sad to Scary and you have the view of the child. There are some genuinely sad things in my family history, the family I grew up in, that is. We've weathered lots of divorces, children who died, mental illness. Mothers and fathers who went away.

And like any part of the past that lies uneasy on my mind, I can say That Has Nothing To Do With Us, the Us, that is, that is my new little family. And you can say That Has Everything To Do With Us but the truth is somewhere in between and right now when the girls are spooked, all they need is our good humor and constant reassurance and a sweet pumpkin patch on the way home with a teepee to explore and three little donkeys, safe, warm and soft to the touch.

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