In eighth grade, I went to my friend Jason’s birthday party. We walked from Jason’s house to the arcade, and then after the arcade, his mother let us rent any movies we wanted. The group of 13 year old boys picked Terminator 2 and Child’s Play 2. You may remember the Child’s Play movies as the ones about the Cabbage Patch Kid-like doll that comes to life and gruesomely murders people.
We watched Terminator 2 first, which was a pretty neat movie. My parents still very carefully monitored which PG movies I was allowed to watch at thirteen, so watching an R-rated movie with my friends was very much a transgression on my part. I felt cool.
And then we watched Child’s Play 2. And really, I wanted to die.
I barely slept for weeks. Every night, for weeks, I would wait until my parents went to bed, and I then I would turn my bedroom lights back on and read books. The idea of turning the lights off and closing my eyes horrified me. I knew that if I did, Chuckie would come out of my closet and kill me.
So instead, I read L. Frank Baum until I passed out.
My childhood bedroom had a walk-in closet. Inside that closet was a stairway to the attic. At the top of the stairs, all that stood between me a certain doom was a flimsy plywood door. Every night, I propped a rocking chair under the doorknob on my closet. I didn’t think it would keep the door from opening, so I stacked some metal things on the chair — an old colander, a saucepan — hoping that when, not if, the door opened, I would at least be warned by the clatter.
I managed to convince my parents that it was time to redecorate my bedroom. It was a kid’s bedroom, and I was a young man in need of a young man’s bedroom. (A young man literally trying to escape the monsters in his closet.) Oh, and hey, if we’re redoing the room anyway, wouldn’t this be a great time for me to trade with the guest bedroom?
So after about a month, I changed bedrooms and started being able to sleep again.
Things were fine.
And then my dad decided to start collecting Byer’s Choice Caroler dolls to display at Christmas. Our home was filled with these … creatures of nightmare. I’d walk from the kitchen into the family room, and they’d be looking at me. The living room. More of them, looking at me. Try to eat in the dining room while those monsters are watching you. They were clearly waiting for me to plump up before feasting on my remains!
But I was thirteen! What was I going to do? Tell my parents that their Christmas decorations were literally making me jump every time I turned a corner? No, I pretended I was fine, just like I did in every other aspect of my completely not fine life.
For years, I wouldn’t watch scary movies. Then, when I was in college, I started forcing myself to watch them. I was going to make it be fine. And really, it was. I didn’t have nightmares anymore, and I no longer looked over my shoulder every twenty seconds to see if a serial killer or gruesome doll from nightmare was targeting me.
I can even walk through my parents’ house at Christmas without jumping. I am pretty sure that I can take a Byer’s Choice Caroler in a fight. Maybe.
Last night, though, I had a nightmare. Like, a wake up, shaking and sweaty, full on nightmare. And it was about Jordan. I had never even considered the possibility that I would start having dreams that gruesome nightmare dolls were targeting my children.
But there it was.
In the dream, we were at a friend’s house, watching a movie. My kids and her kids, totally pleasant. Jordan was sitting on the floor.
Then, out of nowhere, a man in a COOKIE MONSTER COSTUME sneaks up behind Jordan and kicks him in the head. No one else seemed to care, so I had to pursue the Cookie Monster criminal by myself, through the woods.
Thanks, brain. I owe you one.