Bump in the Night

I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now? –John Lennon

Right on, John. It’s not overly Jungian to assert that most childhood fears (and monsters) just morph into grown up fears (and monsters). Perhaps the Ambivalent Agnostic should read more of Jung? Nevermind, I’m kind of tired of being in my own head so much.

Back to my point–
I am sympathetic to the nightmares of my children. I almost never say, “there’s nothing to be scared of, monsters aren’t real”. One, because I’ve been a 26 year old, staring at a shadow in the woods convinced it was a burning cat. Turned out to be a crazy pile of pine straw, with a candy wrapper in the middle that was catching the street light reflection just right, but that’s not really the point. I was an adult (in theory) and it still took logic several long moments to overcome my panic. Now imagine being 4, or 2, and having the same “vision”. Yeah, pretty sucky, hunh? And two, because monsters are real– they just don’t usually live in the closet.

I also still remember the two most common of my childhood nightmares. One involved an old couple, marionette doll-esque, in Victorian-style dress, chasing me through a dark attic. I started having that one when I was about 5, and it lasted for years. The other one involved walking down an aisle, toward a coffin containing my dead father in his Dress Blues. That one ended when it came true.

And do you remember staying paralytically still in your bed, so that the shadow monster from the closet wouldn’t notice you? I do. And I still can’t sleep without having my feet covered by a sheet (or socks) because of the nightmare about the rat who ate my toes. That one was a babysitter’s fault– one really should look behind the couch before watching a horror movie while sitting for a small child. And 5-year-old me learned not to be so nosy. Well, not at all– but I should have. I wish I could remember which movie it was so that I could watch it as an adult and be less freaked out. Kind of like I did with that Twilight Zone… oh, I’m so lying. Shatner and the troll-monster still makes my armpits sweat.

So, Mom has a seriously overactive imagination, and Mom still has nightmares. Which is why Mom doesn’t get too mad about kids that show up in the bed at all hours. Kids that sleep nicely are allowed to stay. Kids that jump up and down on her head are sent back to bed.

When I was pregnant with Zach, I painted –>Hey stay with me– there’s a point to this a bunch of cheerful sea creatures on the walls.

Me, the opposite of perfectionist, actually mourned the “whale” for about 6 hours. It’s funny…now. That night it was all about the hormonally-charged psychosis of 7-months pregnant, ADHD woman. And the husband who was hiding from her. The giant Stoned Whale who Lived Behind the Door remained and ongoing joke between JB and I. And later when Z started referring to it as a goldfish (of the Cracker variety), well that fit, too.

I did a much better job on the subsequent sea creatures. But that purple octopus looks kind of ominous, no?

We’ve had nightmares here and there, but about a month ago they were happening almost nightly. No 4 year old should have bags like that– only the parents of those 4 year olds. And the constant night wakings were making everyone cranky. One evening, after he and I just had a No Good Really Bad Day, he finally broke down and told me what was wrong. Seriously–the internalization of his angst is so not something he gets from me. Ahem, JB.

But it was this night that I found myself with him in the dark, looking around their room from his perspective from the bed. Poor kids–both of them. As it turns out, the un-curtained windows (I’m doing this thing with the curtains–for about 6 months now) let’s just enough street light glow in through the blinds to make the white parts of the sea creature eyes glow. Eight pairs of glowing eyeballs. Yeah, that’s not at all terrifying.

The worst offender? The most menacing of the floating-eyed monsters? Yup, it’s Stoned Goldfish.
/Wincing/ The one that lives right next to the door from which terrified child must escape to seek safety of Parental Bed.

When we repainted, Zach helped. Well, he helped paint over all of the eyes, then he left to watch a cartoon. Can I just print these memories out for their therapist?

Parents– save yourself. Go into your kid’s room, turn off the lights and let your internal 4 year old out for a look-see.

The Ambivalent Agnostic

Photo via SqueakyMarmot

Crows live in my neighborhood. A murder of them reside right behind my house.

You might say, “Yeah, so? There are lots of trees; crows are birds and therefore live in trees. What am I missing about this?”

Well…let me tell you a little story about the supernatural and reincarnation, or whatever you want to call it. Considering that my friends (and therefore I assume my readers…ahem) run the gamut of the belief/non-belief spectrum, I imagine there will be a fair bit of eye rolling from either side.

My Dad died on March 11, 2001. He was hospitalized the January before for shortness of breath and lethargy, diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) a few days later, and died from acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

His death fucked me up. I could go into dozens of theories about my general state of mind and the correspondence to the identified stages of grief. That’s science and I subscribe to the validity of the scientific process. Or I could just say it fucked me up because that was the worst thing that had happened to me at that time in my life.

The week after his death I started seeing two crows—one big, one smaller—following me everywhere. Those days that I sat completely immersed in my own grief, managing to feel both raw and numb, they would show up. And they have stayed (though the group has grown by one) ever since.

Are there perfectly valid scientific reasons for this? Well, of course. One would be that I live in an area where there are lots of trees. Another would be that crows are a common bird. Ah—science answers all questions, right?

But why two crows (remembering that one was smaller)? Well, I love random associations and symbology and this will require you step into a scattered brain for a minute. My 11 year old cousin, Caleb, died a few years before my father passed away. Caleb, like my father, was born in November. My Dad grew up near the Calcasieu River in Southwest Louisiana and some of our family members told stories of our ancestors being respected by the local Native Americans. The name Calcasieu comes from Atakapan word “quelqueshue”, meaning “crying eagle“. When he was older, my father fought in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division, aka “The Screaming Eagles”. Vietnam is where he was exposed to the Agent Orange that caused the cancer that killed him so many years later. Many Native American tribes thought that crows live in the Void, having the ability to be the past, present, and future.

Nice, neat circle of assumptions, eh?

In March 2001, however, my brain and heart needed comfort, not science, and thus my new crow-friends became representative of still having my Dad around in some way. And LO UNTO anyone who dared suggest the scientific reasoning over the supernatural. Poor Joel.

Grief does fade through the years, but no one grieving in the present will believe it. As the grief fades, the constant need for comfort fades too. But my crows…they have stayed.

And when PawPaw (my Dad’s dad) died in November, the two crows found a third.

Sometimes there are more. Hey, even reincarnated crows make new friends. But if I see one, I always see two more. If I’m puzzling over some problem (especially if it relates to fixing or growing something) seeing my trinity of crows helps me to shift my thought process, usually altering my perspective, and sometimes even offering a solution.

Yet even though I can attribute all of this to the supernatural, believing that my family is stalking me in bird-form, I can (now!) also consider the earthly explanations. I can concede (now!) that it is just as likely the whole thing is a coincidence.

And this, my friends, is why I’m agnostic. I like sitting on the fence, alternating between defending my crow-friends and ruefully laughing at myself for even considering anything unworldly. All I know is that whenever I see a crow (or three), I smile. I remember all of my loved ones—not just the paternal representation that initiated the pattern. I think about Grandpa Banner—a chemist, a magician, and the kilt-wearing symbolic representation of my Scottish heritage. I think about Nanny, my paternal grandmother, a feisty red-head with a fierce drive and a crazy-scary talent with needle and thread.

It makes me stop for a minute in a world that moves much too fast and consider where I (and thus my children) came from. It reminds me to tell my children about the family members that they will never meet.

So what if I have assigned a symbolic meaning to crows that many scoff at as ridiculousness. Unless I am demanding that everyone feel the same way about the crow then why should you care?

Ambivalent is how I feel about both believers/non-believers—people are who they are. I’m at peace with however people chose to find comfort, meaning, or purpose until they get pushy, rude, or violent over their truthiness.