I'm A Scaredy Cat

 For our 10th year wearing family-themed costumes, we honored the 10-dollar president = Alexander Hamilton! L to R: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler and Aaron Burr.

For our 10th year wearing family-themed costumes, we honored the 10-dollar president = Alexander Hamilton! L to R: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler and Aaron Burr.

Hey, everyone! I talked about Halloween in this week’s Straight From The Heart(land) podcast Pulse, but I’m sharing my thoughts here as well.

Halloween typically means all things spooky and scary. Now, my youngest son was born on Halloween, so that has really raised my esteem for this holiday. And we’ve dressed up in themed costumes as a family for 10 years running, so that also gives me a fondness for Oct. 31.

But, in general, Halloween isn’t my fave because …..I’m a self-admitted SCAREDY CAT!

I can remember growing up in the 80s – I know….already scary! – and my parents went all-out for Halloween. They changed the light bulbs on our exterior lights to cast eerie shadows on the house. They had scary records – young people, records were vinyl discs that you played on a turn table. Think CDs, only bigger. -  filled with screams, clanking chains, clock strikes, evil laughter, and owl hoots, and on Halloween night they would prop speakers in the windows filling our neighborhood with haunted sounds and making our house the scariest one on the block.

Kids would happily be walking along tick-or treating until they got a few houses away from ours and suddenly small children were clinging to their parents’ legs, crying with fear. Their parents would scoot them quickly along or cross to the other side of the street.

But, the bravest of kids would ring the doorbell and my mom would open the door dressed as a scary witch complete with green face paint a la the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

Jokes, of course, were required and in the time it took the kids to mumble their punchlines my dad would have snuck around the side of the house and up behind them, dressed up a blood-sucking vampire and scaring the living’ daylights out of them.

You couldn’t win if you were a kid in our neighborhood back then. It was all in good fun for my parents. And there was a hint of pride I felt knowing my parents were doing something unique, fun and kind of edgy.

But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t just a LITTLE bit scared of the whole thing myself. I would return from taking my trick-or-treating spin around the block and as I approached my own home, I would be whispering, “It’s just scary music. It’s just my mom and dad. There’s nothing to be scared of.”

I think it stems back to one fall when I was hanging out at a neighbor kid’s house – I couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 – and the group decided to watch Halloween 3. The fact that I hadn’t seen Halloween 1 or 2 did not take away from the pure terror I felt seeing my first horror movie. I slept with the hall light on and my door open for months. And vowed from that point on to never watch another horror movie. To this day, because I’m a woman on my word, I still haven’t. Still terrified!

In fact, the fear is so real that I can’t even watch previews for scary movies. I close my eyes and plug my ears…..because, let’s be honest, the sounds are almost as bad as the visuals. Those creepy violins make my palms sweat and my heart beat fast.

Speaking of my heart beating fast, I practically ran through my one and only haunted house. I was talked into it by a boyfriend – first mistake – and after nervously waiting in line for more than an hour, I proceeded to walk directly behind him, holding on to his shoulders, my head buried in his back, my eyes fixed down on my feet looking at nothing around me and wishing I could block all the sounds from my ears.

There’s a family in our town who puts on a haunted house in their garage every year. They change the theme and because the wife is a 1st grade teacher in the school district, lots of kids come to visit. They give kids options before going through – scary, kind of scary and not scary. When my oldest was a 1st grader, he had this teacher, but was too chicken to go in. (Solidarity, York.) But, the next year, my daughter had the same teacher and she was 100% interested. When they asked if she wanted scary or not scary, I MAY have talked her into NOT scary.  Of course, it’s because I’m a good mom and didn’t want her scarred for life and not at all because I was a little nervous myself.

(By the way, I just realized and wonder: is it a coincidence that scared and scarred are only one “R” away. I think not. Case closed.)

Why people wait in line and pay good money for haunted houses and haunted forests is beyond me. Sometimes I still run up to my room after I turn off the downstairs lights! (Okay, surely I’m not the only one who does this. Right?)    

My oldest, York, must take after me in the scaredy cat arena because recently a group of his 8th grade friends were organizing a trip to a local haunted house. They asked if he wanted to go and he said he’d pass. They asked if it was because he was scared, and he said, “Yeah, kind of.” No shame, York. No shame. There are things you just can’t unsee or unhear. Steer clear of that nonsense.

But, I know some of you LOVE haunted houses and scary movies. So, I need you to tell me why. Help me understand the desire to feel like your worst nightmare is actually happening in that very moment. When your heart is beating out of your chest and screams are filling your lungs. My startle reflect is ratcheted way too high already. It doesn’t take much to scare me. On a fairly regular basis, one of my family members will walk into a room or come around a corner and I’ll jump sky-high. I can’t purposely put myself in a position to be terrified. Not without causing serious damage to my adrenal glands.

So, as we walk through Halloween today, whether you’re a horror enthusiast or more like me, I hope your holiday is merry, not scary. Let’s focus on the best part of Oct 31st…..the fun-sized candy bars!