Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Fear of the Dark

May 1970.
The Bronx, New York

I am 5.

I dread bedtime, not because I dread sleep but because I am sure the monsters are under my bed and in my closet, ready to spring on my tiny little body and eat me alive.

My mother leaves the hall light on and keeps my door open. But it’s not enough.

I am terrified of the dark.

So she compromises some more. She turns on my bedroom light and sternly orders me to sleep and makes her way downstairs as I plead with her to stay.

And then, silence, save the distant drone of Walter Cronkite in the warm and safe living room light.

I completely PANIC.

I creep to the closet door and look inside.


I crawl on all fours and look under my bed.


I slowly make my way to the door frame.

Dare I go downstairs?

I step, as quietly as I can, on each pre-1940s wooden step until I’m at the landing, and then I crane my head around the corner. My parents are sitting together on the couch, my father’s arm around my mother, my mother’s head on his chest. Safe. I know I am protected, but I just have to stay away from my room, or those monsters will get me.

Then, unfortunately for me, they simultaneously lift their heads and look right at me. How did they hear me?

“What are you doing up?” my father barks.

“I’m afraid of the monsters in my room.”

“Get back in there!”

And I race to my doorway, still not entering the realm of terror, still clinging to the hallway light and the comforting sound below.

“Are you in your bed?” he shouts up at me.


“You get in there or I’ll spank you!”

’Nuff said.

Woefully I slink back to my bed and sit up, clutching the sheets to my chin. How will I ever sleep, knowing that those creatures will attack me as soon as I’m out cold?

Then, I come up with an idea.

My mother, always a font of creativity, has stowed some poster board under my bed for special coloring binges. I grab one of the sheets and a crayon, and methodically, deliberately, I write these words:


(Just remember I hadn’t learned to spell yet).

I smile smugly. “Those monsters aren’t as smart as I am,” I think to myself. “They won’t even know that I’m a little kid under the covers.”

I prop the sign against the side of my bed, pull up the covers and immediately go to sleep.

I am confident that my sign to scare them away will do the trick, and I will sleep in contentment.

And I do.

Two weeks ago.
My bedroom.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

I am 43.

I am still afraid of the dark.


I keep a tree filled with twinkle lights on throughout the night on my stair landing. If I wake, its light comforts me.

I was so afraid of the dark when I was a child, that when Neil comes to get me in the night, I go straight to his room and sleep next to him until morning.

I know what it’s like to be afraid of the dark and of monsters unseen. I don't want him to be afraid like I was.

At 2 a.m., I wake suddenly. It’s so dark I can’t see my hand. I grab Brent’s arm.

“What is it?” he yelps.

“Why are the lights off of the twinkle tree? Why did you unplug it?” I yell.

“Geez! I didn’t unplug it. The electricity is off. We had a thunderstorm.”

I can’t explain to you this irrational fear of the dark, but it continues to haunt me. I feel I am suffocating. I can’t breathe. I grab my glasses and touch my toes to the floorboards.

“Where are you going?”

“Upstairs. I have to be able to see light.”


I creep up to our living room landing and make my way to the front door. As I open it, a strong breeze kisses my cheeks, and I breathe in the night air gratefully, while I gaze at the street light on the corner. I make my way back to a recliner and stare at the light streaming into the foyer, waiting for our home’s power to be restored.

I sleep. Two hours later, the lights on the twinkle tree come back to life and wake me. I make my way back to our room, comforted by the light, and settle into my pillow.

As long as the light is shining on me, I can sleep in contentment.

And I do.

Yesterday, 7:10 a.m.
My living room.
Harrodsburg, KY.

I have just put Neil on the school bus.

Still wiping the sleep from my eyes, I open my computer to check for morning messages from editors and to assess my routine for the day.

And I am met with darkness.

It floods over me, like the blackest of nights, suffocating me, churning panic in the pit of my belly.

What is your worst fear? Mine is that my child will be abducted.

I am gazing at a notification in my inbox:

“A sex offender has just moved near you. Click here for their location,” it says.

I do and suck in my breath as the map covers my screen, green dots indicating the homes of offenders near my own.

I feel scared and angry, just like I felt at age 5 when I battled the monsters in my room with the poster board sign.

Then I open my other email account. “Gena123 is following you on Twitter.” “Brandy78 is following you on Twitter.” “Joe95 is following you on Twitter.”

The list goes on.

Each of these people have Twitter accounts that boast their sexual adventures. They have links to their own Web sites (no, didn’t click those, promise) that I assume are pornographic in nature.

I angrily hit, “Delete, Delete, Delete,” and ask myself, “Why are they following me? Are they trying to harass me? Are they trying to scare me? Are they following me because of the photo I’ve posted with me and Neil?”

And as soon as the thoughts hit me, the Voice speaks to my heart.

“You’re in the light. They’re in the darkness. Don’t you think they may be following you on Twitter because you are in the light? You can show them the Safety from the monsters in their lives.”

My heart softens.

“What do you want me to do about this?” I ask Him.

“Love them. I love them. Love them for Me.”

And so I do.

I post a line on my Twitter page:

“To my recent followers who boast their sex addictions: Check out my blog at http://heidirafferty.blogspot.com. Someone loves YOU.”

Will it make a difference?

I don’t know, but I do know one thing:

I am safe in the Light. And they should be safe, too.

They should sleep in contentment, under His grace

… as I do.

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