When I was a boy, we moved from the city to a farm near my grandparents. Our little trailer house was nestled right between three things that often kept me awake and worried after dark at night. They were a dilapidated hundred-year old two-story house to the west, an even older (and only a bit smaller) barn to the east, and an ancient cement cellar with a heavy metal door to the north.
By day, these three places were a boy’s adventurous dreamscapes and were replete with hidden closets under creaking staircases and musty smells and scratch marks from who knows what kinds of animals. There were boxes of old newspapers and various pieces of archaic furniture in the old house’s nearly collapsed attic and large leather harnesses and ropes and pulleys hung from wooden slats of the dark stalls that lined each side of the old barn. The dimly lit cellar was a great place to think of spooky stories to tell my younger sister and an even better (and brave) place to hide in a game of hide-and-seek.
By night, these three places were another thing altogether. They represented every scary movie that I had ever heard of (and I only knew of a few at this point in my young life) and seemed to surely be the birthplaces of every monster and ghost and eerie sound that the world of a young boy’s mind could muster.
By day, they were my Mt. Everest. By night, they were my Legend of Boggy Creek.
Today we visit the old house, the spot where the barn once stood, and the musty cellar with my children and I tell them of the feelings I had when I was their age. I keenly remember the experiences, the sights and sounds of it all, as the memories come flooding back to me – the fun and the fear and the courage and the weakness and the dark and the light, the dreams and the nightmares.
While we were searching through the ruins of these familiar places, I noticed that when we would enter a particularly dark or cobweb-infested area my youngest daughter would say, “We’re right behind you dad.” And then…they would only take a step after I took a step. They would only move ahead after I moved ahead. They would only laugh after I laughed.
And it all makes me think – I was only taking a step because I knew they needed to take a step. I was only moving ahead because I knew they needed to move ahead. I was only laughing because I knew they needed to laugh.
Then as a boy, I remember how it felt to try to navigate my courage and my fear, my dreams and my nightmares, all at the same time…for myself.
Now as a father, I know how it feels to navigate my courage and my fear, my dreams and my nightmares all at the same time…for them.