My earliest scary experience was the night I was chased by a big jumping jack firecracker. It chased me every which way as I spun in panic trying to escape. I was wearing a red coat at the time. Now I associate the colour red with that fearful moment. I really don’t like wearing red. Purple is my colour of choice. It’s a colour of strength.
The murder house: The smell of antiseptic filled my nostrils. The stiffly starched white uniform of the dental nurse scratched my face as she bent over me, stretching my lips and ramming her instruments into my sensitive gums. The sound of the drill reverberated in my head. Using a treadle to operate the dreaded drill which buzzed and bored through healthy enamel ( and sometimes the nerve), those trainee dental nurses drilled and filled for practice, filling the cavity with ghastly tasting amalgam.
“Rinse and spit, rinse and spit, there you are all done now”. Except it wasn’t all done now. It was just the start of my lifelong teeth issues. I proudly accepted the little ghost dollies made out of cotton swabs to take home as a reward for being brave. And because I had to take two buses, I got out of several hours of school time. The only bonus!
Sadly my natural teeth didn’t survive those early traumas and so it is that I have dentures. However these days the pain only comes when the bill for denture repair arrives.
Breathe – just breathe: Comfy thick eiderdowns, candlewick bedspreads and hot water bottles warmed me on cold winter nights. Sometimes though, I would awaken in the night, panicking as I struggled to breathe. A loud whoop, a hacking cough, a sharp intake of breath, then another whooping cough. My mother would take me to the sitting room and put me on a mattress on the floor alongside the kerosene heater, sitting atop of this would be the bowl of steaming water and Vicks vapor-rub. It felt good to have her lay alongside me all night, rubbing my back. I was able to eventually relax my breathing and get some sleep. In hindsight, it was quite possibly undiagnosed asthma – although that could also have been triggered by photograph chemicals in my early twenties. More on that later…
Getting the strap: “School Corporal punishment is the deliberate infliction of physical pain/discomfort and psychological humiliation as a response to undesired behavior by a student or group of students.”
“Hold your hands out” said the teacher to the long line of fearful kids standing at the front of the class, Whack went the leather strap. I was stung to tears. Mortified that just two words wrongly spelled was all it took to get this very public and embarrassing punishment. Then angry… how dare this bully strap us all for getting spelling wrong? I vowed then and there I would never get strapped again.
Yet I was. The next time was for putting my stale sandwich crusts in the bin. It appears I was ‘wasting food’ and ‘my hair won’t curl” but I already had curly hair so I didn’t need to eat my crusts. Besides which, those starving kids in Africa would never get those crusts anyway. And really those crusts were quite tough on my tender gums still sore from that dental nurse practising her ‘drill and fill’ techniques. I’m not sure quite what I was supposed to learn though.
They called it disciplined education. I called it ignorance. The only thing I learnt from those archaic teaching strategies was to keep quiet, not voice my opinion and definitely not admit to any mistakes. Fear of failure affected me for many years. Maybe that is where I get my tendency to procrastinate?
What memories can you recall of your childhood fears? And how did these affect your life?