1. Loved ones wearing costumes (Strangers in costumes? Totally fine)
My grandparents were relatively young when I was born--Meemaw was in her late fifties, and Pappaw was in his mid-sixties. One night when I was two or three years old, they decided it would be funny to show up at our house dressed as really, really old people, hobbling on canes and speaking in croaky voices. They whitened their hair and applied makeup to make their faces seem extremely wrinkled. Mom played along and pretended they were two total strangers. Meemaw was carrying a baby doll wrapped in a blanket like a real baby, because this was all an elaborate ruse to make me believe this baby had been entrusted to me by two mysterious strangers of the night.
Mom invited the elderly "strangers" inside, and they approached me as though meeting me for the first time.
Their plan began to unravel when I took one look at them and realized these people were Meemaw and Pappaw, except something was horribly, horribly wrong. Some evil wizard had sucked away their youth, and apparently their memories as well. And my stupid mother had let these zombie-grandparents into our home without a second thought. If I was going to survive, I had to accept that these were no longer the grandparents I loved, but mere empty husks now bent on sucking the youth out of me as well. As you can imagine, that's a lot for a toddler to process.
|If this is your idea of humor, then yes, this night was hilarious.|
Sensing the tension in the room, Meemaw skipped ahead and gave me the doll she had brought me, hoping to distract from the psychotic meltdown I was having.
It was a rubber doll designed to be a reasonable facsimile of a real, sleeping baby, right down to the fact that its eyes were closed.
It took the rest of the night to calm me down, and even then, "calm" is a strong word. By the time Meemaw and Pappaw left, I had achieved a state of quiet hyperventilation. Meemaw later painted eyes on the doll so that I would grudgingly play with it.
3. Costumes again
That wasn't the last of my costume phobia. When I was a little older, Pappaw wanted to surprise me one Halloween by dressing up as the scarecrow, my favorite character from The Wizard of Oz. He and Meemaw spent hours on his costume, and when he made his grand entrance into the living room, looking forward to seeing the delight on his sweet granddaughter's face, I shrieked violently and bolted upstairs, where I took sanctuary on the top landing and had to be coaxed down to continue my night of trick-or-treating.
4. Anything without a face, really
Several years later, Meemaw and Pappaw took a trip through Amish country and brought back an authentic Amish doll for me. Amish dolls traditionally don't have faces. At all. Absolutely no facial features. An ideal gift for the girl who was horrified of a sleeping baby doll. Although I didn't panic as badly as I did with the eyeless doll-baby, I was obviously not warming up to the Amish doll.
So, yet again, Meemaw added facial features to the doll to assuage my fears, except this time she sewed them on. Sorry, Amish people.
5. Passing vehicles
Like many families, we lived on a street. It wasn't a particularly busy street, but cars passed our house on a regular basis. I had been given the standard warning not to approach any strangers in a car and to come inside if an unfamiliar car pulled down the driveway. I took this to mean all cars were bent on kidnapping and murdering me, so I decided my safest bet was to treat every vehicle like approaching doom. When I was playing in the yard and heard the approaching roar of a car, I sprinted from wherever I was to the safe area behind the house and crouched there, out of sight, until the sinister sound of the passing car faded into the distance.
On the bright side, I got plenty of exercise, and I was never kidnapped.