I once sat in the garage for an hour and a half, waiting for my husband to get home, after watching a Ghost Adventures documentary during which my dishwasher inexplicably kicked on by itself. It’s true– there is no bigger scaredy cat on earth. Except for possibly my mother, but now that she’s gone, I’m the reigning queen. I often think that may be why she doesn’t haunt me– she would scare the shit out of herself. Don’t get me wrong, she does visit me, but only in dreams. I think she’s too scared of catching a glimpse of her own ghost in the mirror to drop by when I’m awake.
The first– and only– time I convinced her to watch a scary movie with me was one of the most memorable and craptastic episodes of my youth. I was twelve years old, and Candyman had just been released at the theater. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and my mom and I were having a girls’ night while my brothers were kickin’ it with our dad in only the way that six- and nine-year old boys can kick it. So when my mom asked how I wanted to spend the evening, rather than going Godzilla on a gallon of double fudge ice cream and watching Thelma and Louise for the fiftieth time, I suggested we be a bit more adventurous.
After much, much begging and pleading, I somehow persuaded my mom– a woman who couldn’t watch Ghostbusters because it “startled her”– to take me to see Candyman. I succeeded in this endeavor by looking her straight in the face and telling her it was a John Candy comedy. She loved John Candy, and the lie made sense with the movie title. I shrugged away any guilt I may have felt by reminding myself that I needed an adult to get me into the R-rated movie anyway. And my dear, sweet, naive mother sat through the entire movie with her eyes scrunched shut and her fingers stuffed in her ears, periodically reaching over to smack me and yell, “You said it was a comedy!!”
Despite not actually watching any of the movie, and only hearing incoherent pieces of it, my mother was a quivering slice of wussy pie by the time we left the theater. When we got home, she refused to look in any of the many many mirrors she liked to decorate with because the premise of the movie– spoiler alert!– was that the Candyman would appear behind you and eviscerate you with his hook-hand if you looked in the mirror and said his name three times.
“Moooooommmmm,” I whined as she steered me down the hallway towards her room, at the end of which hung an octagonal mirror, “you shouldn’t be scared! You have to say his name three times and then he kills you.”
“Stop talking about it!” she shrieked. “You made me see a horror movie! This is the price you pay!”
“Yeah, well, you didn’t actually see any of it with your eyes shut,” I muttered. So I penitently sat on the edge of the bathtub, guarding my mom from the wall-length mirror as she brushed her teeth and got ready for bed. When she appeared to have calmed down a little, I walked into the adjoining bedroom to call my boyfriend.
I was in the midst of telling him about our night, laughing at my mom and bragging on my own courage when I heard a sound coming from under the bed. I stopped mid-sentence to listen. It was a kind of scratchy, shuffling sound, kind of like a racoon neatly stacking paper plates but failing miserably because it’s a racoon.
“Helllooooo?” my boyfriend said on the phone.
“Sssshhh! Hang on!” I whispered sort of loudly to really be whispering.
Apparently I wasn’t as brave as I thought because what happened next was an absolute shit storm. I heard the sound again, louder this time. My mom poked her head around the doorway to see why I was suddenly so quiet. At that moment, the sort-of-quiet-and-just-a-little-bit-creepy sound from under the bed turned into a HUGELY LOUD ripping sound, like claws shredding heavy fabric (which is exactly what it was), and I lost any and all capacity for composure. What followed went something like this:
HUGE TERRIBLE RIPPING SOUND THAT CAN ONLY PRECEDE HORRIBLE, BLOODY DEATH AT THE HOOK-HANDS OF MONSTROUS DEMONS
Me: Screaming in abject hysterics as though I am actually being stabbed repeatedly.
Mom: Startled by the demon sounds and my hysterical screaming also begins screaming wildly at the top of her lungs.
Me: Looking desperately for a new escape route, pinned against the wall by the bed on one side and my mom on the other, still screaming insanely.
Mom: Rushing me in panic, clutching at my shoulders and trying in vain to climb me like a tree, still screaming the entire time.
Me: Struggling now to escape not only the demon but also my spider monkey of a mother, can think of nothing to do but start frantically trying to scale the sheet rock of the bedroom wall. Still screaming.
Mom: Finally regains the capacity for speech and shrieks, “WHAT THE HELL ARE WE SCREAMING ABOUT???!!”
Me: Watches in dismay, still mid-scream, still trying desperately to climb the wall, as the cat rockets out from under the bed. Sinking feeling hits as I realize that I am exactly as much of a wuss as my mother. Still screaming.
Mom: “WHAT THE HELL ARE WE SCREAMING ABOUT??!”
Me: “THE CAT MADE A WEIRD NOISE!!!”
Screaming stops. Mom stops using me as a very ineffectual ladder. Looks at me with that you-are-in-so-much-mother-fucking-goddamned-trouble-young-lady look that only mothers do so well and stalks from the room to regain her composure. Reconsiders navigating the dark hallway by herself, comes back and grabs me, and pushes me in front of her all the way back to the living room. Pretty sure cops have already been dispatched by neighbors who couldn’t possibly have not heard our hysterical and insane screaming.
I learned something about my mother that night, as well as about myself. While I was trying to pretend to be brave and strong, my mom knew her limits and didn’t push them (though she loved me enough to let me push them). I also learned that cats, when subjected to prolonged and hysterical screaming, tend to vomit hairballs in your bedroom doorway during the night so that you step in them barefoot the next morning. Because cats are assholes.