The MASK OF FEAR
I’m one of four children. I have two older siblings; the oldest, a brother, the second in command, a sister and a younger brother who was born when my parents decided they didn’t want to deal with “empty nest syndrome”. But for a good while I was the youngest. Somewhere in the research of family personality tests, the youngest child is suppose to be the spoiled one who always gets their way and that everyone adores. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t think anyone had the interest in spoiling or adoring me, including my siblings! They were having way too much fun taunting me!
My parents visited a Halloween Store sometime in the early 80’s. They purchased a wolf-man mask, not realizing that it would be used to grow a fear in me that would last me through my toddler years and well into my childhood.
At first sight I was terrified of it, to my older siblings delight. When my parents came to the conclusion that I didn’t like it, they put it away in their bedroom closet where other forbidden things like the “Pink Floyd: The Wall” album, Steven King novels, cigars and things like that were kept. They never knew that we’d sneak in and go through their closet. We were nosy kids. Much to my dismay, that’s when my brother would come across that horrible mask and use it for his own sick humor.
He used to find ways to scare me with that wolf-man mask. Looking back on it, it was rather creative. But back then it was a nightmare. He would put the mask onto random doll and place it in my closet and suggest I go looking for the particular toy. He would hid it under my bed and suggest a game of “hide and seek” where I would often climb under my bed to hide. And yes, he found a way to hang it onto my bedroom light fixture so when I turned on the light, the wolf-man mask would stare down at me all lit up. But no matter how many times I cried, begged and pleaded to mom and dad to throw it away, they wouldn’t.
One summer day, while my dad was at work, my mom wanted to get us all to lie down for a nap. We were too hyped up, so she sent us all to our rooms. After about 10 minutes of swinging on the doors back and forth by hanging on the door knobs (admit it, you did it too when you were younger) we all sat down at our doorways to talk and hang out.
My brother came up with a simple game for us to play.
The rules were easy enough; We would pass a laundry basket around to each other. Every time the basket would get to us, we would have to add something from our room to the basket, but then take something from the basket to keep.
We played a few rounds and were having a blast with it when the one thing I didn’t expect happened. When the basket got to me, hidden under a t-shirt was the wolf-man mask. I was a 5 year old who had to make a decision. I either could start to cry, wake mom up, end the game and forever be controlled by the damn mask or I could muster up some courage to take the mask, show enough spunk to throw off my older siblings and hope it would end the horror-fest that they seemed to live for
I TOOK THE MASK!
Putting my best poker face on, I quickly added an item and passed the basket.
My brother’s turn was next. He got his hands onto the laundry basket, looked all around in it and eyed my sister. I remember him asking her under his breath “do you have the mask?” My sister assured him that she didn’t and then both sets of widened eyes fell onto me. It was a shock to them that I stood up for myself and that I wasn’t letting the wolf-man mask bring me to tears.
I was still scared of it, even after this single experience, but that one act of courage ended the constant abuse from the ones who sought to bother me.
Being afraid of something as simple as a Halloween mask seems silly, but to a child it isn’t. Even in our adult lives, there are objects, people or ideas that scare us or make us uncomfortable. We don’t like to admit it because we think that other people wouldn’t understand or would think less of us. There are times, as children and adults, when we have the choice to hide or mask the fact that we are afraid, to make it through difficult times. Being able to seek out a speck of courage in this form of self-help, can offer life-changing effects. Like an earlier blog by Mariana Williams, the song “I Whistle A Happy Tune” fits in perfectly with the way we handle ourselves in scary situations.
Also, if you are facing such a phobia and masking the negative emotions isn’t helping in overcoming the problem, might I suggest finding someone to confide in? You’d be surprised on how understanding people can be and how eager they will be to find a way to help you over come your worst nightmares. Who knows, you may discover that the only thing you have to fear really is fear itself.