POSSIBLE TRIGGERS AHEAD.
Last night I was talking to my friend about the fears we have as children and what happens to those fears as we progress through life. Do they remain, get replaced by others, or are they all vanquished?
Growing up in a Christian based small town, there were givens. Those givens were that people are born, sometimes marry, have children and eventually die. It was not at all unusual to attend funerals where the body was on display so people could pay their final respects. As kids, we did not understand the pain of death unless it hit home. I can remember sitting on the front porch singing “The Hearse Song” as the funeral procession drove through our little community. My grandmother would get extremely angry with us and we would be chastised severely.
The community cemetery where I grew up is atop a hill that overlooks the valley where we lived. It is a beautiful vista and one of the most beautiful views in the Valley. We were not afraid to go to the cemetery. It was often the destination of afternoon walks. I was about seven or eight the afternoon I gathered up a bouquet of sun faded plastic flowers that had been thrown over the fence. Much to my surprise, when I presented them to my grandmother, she was less than impressed and made me throw them away. No funeral flowers for her!
Perhaps being too familiar with the process of death is what created my biggest kid fear – the fear of dying.
My father and my grandfather were part of the volunteer fire department and were called out to fight a forest fire one hot summer. I remember being scared by that. Afraid they would not come home. Afraid the fire would consume them.
My biggest fears were often brought on by my own thoughts, though, which were deep and intense for a child. I would often cry and claim to be sick to express my fear rather than tell anyone where my thoughts had taken me. I could still go into a spiral if I think too much about the universe and the thought of infinity.
Growing up in the country, we hiked the mountains, swam in the creeks, walked the railroads and the crossed the trestles without fear — unless it was the really high trestle where I discovered I was afraid of heights. I never feared being alone in the woods.
When I taught school, my urban students were so afraid of the woods and bears and wild animals, but they had no fear of walking inner city streets at night. That was home to them. Except one student who told me she often showered with the shower curtain open because she was afraid of being shot while in the shower. That was hard to hear. I never experienced that type of fear.
We had one person in our town that suffered from an unknown (to me) mental illness. There were lots of whispers among the adult women in the town and I gather he had exposed himself to someone. He was in the state mental hospital for a while and when he was released, I remember being taught to fear him and steer clear if I saw him anywhere.
I do remember a few instances where someone had escaped from a nearby jail and had broken into my aunt’s log cabin, stealing supplies. It was during this time I remember my grandparents locking the door at night for the first time. Something about locking that front door signaled a fear I had never known up until that moment.
But my kid fears were nothing compared to what some children had to fear. It is frightening how many children have been and are abused throughout their childhood. Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) wrote “Kid Fears” after understanding the real fears some of her friends experienced in their childhood. She, like me I suppose, was spared that kind of abuse.
I have many people whom I love deeply that have suffered abuse from the hands of others as children and for them my heart will forever be broken. Their fears were not unfounded. They were reality. There is no comparison to the fears I experienced. None.
My fears haven’t really changed much but they have subsided. I did develop a fear of flying midlife, which is somewhat controlled now. There is something about age that seems to have quelled some of those fears. Now I am more of a worrier than I am fearful. I worry about my children and grandchildren and hope they are not burdened by kid fears. I worry about the pandemic. I worry about our country. I worry, worry, worry.