So, I have previously mentioned #1 daughter’s fear and disgust when she even catches a glimpse of a baby doll. I’ve tried to trace this back to see what may have triggered her trepidation when it comes to this most popular of toys. When I was a child, I adored dolls and had quite a collection; a collection that I displayed on top of the wardrobe standing across from Lily’s crib..... Oh… Did I inadvertently traumatize my eldest for life by placing these replicas of human children high above her infant form long before she possessed the ability to express her terror and request that I remove them? Oh, bad, bad Mama!
Once she could speak and articulate her fear, the dolls were quickly moved from her presence and have remained boxed ever since, but I’m afraid the damage is done. She has never like them, never wanted to play with them and shuns the site of them. In fact, as mentioned in a previous post, she claims the site of them causes her to lose her appetite and make her feel sick. Weird. Now, Barbies, Brats, even Meika’s new Ling doll, she enjoys to a limited extent and when I ask her why this is so she tells me because they represent teenagers, not babies. The Ling doll, which really is quite beautiful, now resides on top of the wardrobe, the former home to all those other baby dolls, but because Ling is not a ‘baby’ Ling is admired rather than met with apprehension.
Stuff animals she has galore and plays with them endlessly, Lily loves critters, she loves them all… except monkeys. When asked, she will tell you she doesn’t like the way they move, or that she just doesn’t know why she despises them so. But I, the Mama think that again it was me who, though not purposely, none-the-less instilled an abiding fear in my dear child. At the time of her adoption a friend sent a life-sized, crouching, very realistic looking monkey as a gift for her. It was the same size as she was, she being less than a year old. One day I set her and the stuffed monkey on the couch to take a picture of them together for my friend. She took one look, one very recognizable look of shear panic, and started screaming her head off. I quickly removed the beast, but I think it marked her for life. Again, bad, bad, Mama! We still have the monkey, but he is locked away in the attic, and frankly, when I go in there and see him hunkered down in the corner I tremble myself.
This summer, we discovered a fear that Lily has that is so distressing to her that it can paralyze her in a fit of fear. What scares her so? What causes her to stiffen in panic and screech in utter terror sending lightning bolts of dread and dismay through her mother? It is this, the discarded casings of cicadas. For some unknown reason, below the surface of our backyard reside a city of cicadas, and each spring they emerge to latch themselves to the bark of our trees and transform into their winged and green, twittering selves. I rather enjoy the seasonal sounds of cicadas; a calm inducing night time chorus starting from hushed and slow beginnings and gradually building to the satisfying rapid chirping that denotes a hot and peaceful summer night. And indeed, Lily has absolutely no problem with the winged creatures, it is their casings, left behind clinging to trees, the fence, blades of grass and even to our house that send her into hysterics. I initially had no idea she had this aversion until one day this summer she was outside getting ready to feed the dog and she started to scream. The kind of screaming that denotes either extreme terror, severe pain or that one of the Jonas Brothers has just come into our yard. The kind of heart stopping don’t-even-stop-to-think-get-yourself-to-your-kid-NOW kind of scream. I was only a few feet away on the patio, and turned to see her standing in the middle of the yard, clutching a dog food can with both hands until her knuckles were white, her eyes closed and her mouth wide in that horrible cry of sheer terror. All sorts of things flew through my mind in that split second; is she hurt? Don’t see any blood; is there a snake in the grass? Don’t see a snake. Did she cut off a finger on the can of dog food? See all ten fingers. And in a few seconds I am standing in front of her shaking and still screaming form trying to break through to her, but she isn’t stopping and she isn’t telling me what is wrong, she just goes on shrieking and shrieking. Neighbors come out of their houses and start yelling too, what’s wrong, what’s wrong?! I have to actually take Lily by the shoulders and shake her a little to get her to TELL ME WHAT IS WRONG!!! She pries one of her hands off the can of dog food to point at the spot in front of my feet. Sitting in the grass is one single cicada casing, all fragile and lonely. “What? I don’t see anything, what?”
“That BUG! AAAAHHHH!!!!”
“What? This?” and I pick it up. Her eyes widen to colossal saucers and she screams some more. “You have GOT to be kidding me! THIS is what you are screaming about?! THIS is why my heart is in my throat?! This is just an empty shell, honey, watch.” And I drop it and step on it and crush it into non-existence. She stops screaming, but she goes on shaking and crying. It takes a while to calm her after I shout to the neighbors that it is alright, it was just a cicada casing and rolling my eyes in embarrassment. But Lily’s fear is real even if it seems exaggerated to me, she is genuinely petrified. I can’t help but chastise her for making me think that she was in real danger. I tell her that I think that she is overreacting a bit.
“But Mama, aren’t YOU ever scared of something?”
“Fair enough, you’re right, I’m sorry. But you scared the livin’ daylights out of me you know.” So we spend the entire summer with her pleading dreaded cicadas in order not to have to go into the yard to do any chores. I tell her she needs to work it through and confront her fears. And so I watch each day as she picks her way slowly across the yard to feed the critters; see her examine the swing in minute detail before sitting on it; stare for long minutes at a time at the gate before touching it. But she muddles through while I run around the yard when she isn’t looking stomping into oblivion any casings I see. I just don’t understand what is so scary about an empty shell. This is a child who regularly carries around worms, and daddy long legs and toads. I child who would gladly run into a cage of crocodiles if it meant she could touch them, and she is afraid of this wisp of insect carcass?
And then, one day not long after this incident I am in the laundry room, minding my own laundry business when something hits my knee. I look down to find myself staring at and being stared back at by a CAMEL CRICKET! Now, many people who are reading this are probably not familiar with camel crickets, in fact, I was unaware of their existence until I moved south of the Mason-Dixon, so let me tell you, I am a fan of the cricket, the normal, black, chirping cricket. The kind in Mulan. The Jiminy Cricket kind. If I find one in my house I leave it, sighting the old Irish lore that they are lucky to have in your home. But CAMEL CRICKETS! Ha! These horrid creatures should not even BARE the name cricket. Okay, so they have big ol’ legs like a regular cricket, in fact, their legs are freakishly large, and they sort of have a cricket like head, but these mutants are EVIL! SHEER EVIL I tell you! They are one of those bugs that seem to have intelligence far beyond what a bug should have. They are downright aggressive! They like damp and dark, so they like those soggy towels in the laundry basket. They like the shadowy, creepy corners of a tiled room. They like the gigantic bowl of cat food sitting there inviting them in. And when you unsuspectingly open the door to the laundry room, flip on the light and see them gleefully hopping across your floor? (and this is the WORST! THIS is what makes them so evil) they don’t run and hide, they stop. They stare back at you. And then… oh I can hardly bring myself to utter the words… they don’t use those big back legs to chirp, in fact, they don’t make any sound at all, they use those big, horrible, hairy legs to JUMP ON YOU! Yes folks, these creepy-crawly fiends JUMP RIGHT AT YOUR BODY. Frankly, the mere sight of them totally makes my skin crawl. I mean it, it crawls, and just the thought of them makes my entire person do that trembly thing all over. I am absolutely terrified of these bugs. The picture I have attached to this post? Each time I glimpse it I convulse.
So, this summer, for the first time in this house, there is an infestation of camel crickets. I read up on how to get rid of them, why they are in my house, where they could be coming from. Apparently, they creep in through cracks and windows, but I don’t have cracks or open windows, so the only place left is through the drier vent. Oh horrors! To think that they might be sneaking into my dryer and are being tossed about with my clean clothes, ready to pounce upon me when the drier door is opened is just too much. Each time I open the door to that room, I flip on the light and scan the area before setting one toe in. If I spot one, well, that is bad enough, but if I want it to die it means I will have to try and stomp it, and that isn’t easy because they SEE you coming, they anticipate your every move, they gang up on you, and while you are busy trying to flatten their creepy butts, they are leaping at you! It is battle full on! Screaming ensues on both sides and I am sure I look like a total fool hopping around in Wellington boots, a plunger in one hand, a golf club in the other trying to smash these huge and horrible creatures. And yes, if I succeed, because they grow to such great dimensions, there is then the almost equally disgusting disposal of the body to deal with, causing me trauma and non-stop quivering for the rest of the day.
But the absolute worst of the worst was one day, while going about my business, I went into the laundry room to get something. I forgot to case the joint first and walked in, retrieved what I was looking for and went back into the kitchen. I was standing at the counter reading a recipe when I spot something move out of the corner of my eye. Something move ON MY SHOULDER! I reacted swiftly and like a ninja, I didn’t bother to look at whatever it was first, because it was BIG, I just swept it from my person onto the floor and THEN I looked. Yup, you guessed it, the biggest, fattest, hairiest camel cricket in existence was eyeing me right back. THA-WAP! I got him before he got me, but the resulting hysterically trembling, creepy crawly skin and whimpering that resulted lasted for hours.
So what do I do now when I see one of these mutants of nature? Why, I call Lily of course, because camel crickets don’t bother her in the least. Nope. She will deal with them for me. Oh the shame, I must call my nine year old to come and smash the big bad bug because I cannot stand the site of them. And instead she will want to pick it up and take it outside thus saving its undeserving, hairy life. “NO, NO, NO! KILL IT! KILL IT!”And she says to me, “Mama, don’t you think that you are overreacting a bit?” And I say, “NO! No I am NOT overreacting! And I will never say another word to you about your fear of cicada casings. Never! Deal?”