Monsters and what they teach us

When I was nine I was afraid of ghosts. Monsters. E.T. I slept with my hands tucked firmly inside the edges of my mattress and with my closet door shut. I was afraid of the shadows cast by moonlight on my closet door: Mother Mary come to judge me in the night.

When I was twelve I learned to walk with my keys between my fingers. To move a little faster at night, even in my sleepy small-town neighborhood where parents parented other parents’ kids. To look over my shoulder.

When I was sixteen I was afraid of being uncool, of seeming uptight. I taught my friends stick shift, peeling up Route 7 after school. I learned to fool around in the back seat of his car, how not to say no. I learned which neighborhoods to avoid. Which stoplights to ignore.

When I was twenty I learned not to open my dorm room door in the middle of the night.

When I was twenty-four, I was afraid to hold your hand in public, even though we lived in Burlington, Vermont and not Laramie, Wyoming. I cried in my office and wondered what it was like, not to be scared.

When I was thirty-six, I was afraid they would come for our children. We signed paper after paper, tying administrative knots that were anything but Gordian. I was afraid to travel out of state.

When I was forty-three my mother said, I didn’t raise you to be afraid. I didn’t teach you this. I said, you didn’t have to.


8 responses to “Monsters and what they teach us

  1. Christine, this is powerful. It made me think of all the things we do teach our kids to fear in an effort to protect them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is spectacular. I’m speechless. Go publish this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The last line makes this. I agree with Asha. So good.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with Asha. This is spectacular.

    Like

  5. I could read your work all day long. The ending is especially elegant, like the perfect cadence after a long set of suspensions, and I wonder if you tossed around other ways to end it because the process that excellent writers go through always fascinates me so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually started with the first and last paragraphs, more or less, and filled the rest in. What my mother said, I’ve been thinking on it ever since she said it (last spring), trying to figure out why it didn’t *quite* ring true.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You packed so much in such a short essay. I really loved the ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Therapy has taught me that adulthood is a reverberation from what we learned as a kid, especially from our parents. So this essay resonated with me.

    Liked by 1 person

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