Sunday, May 17, 2009

Screams from the past

Writing about memories, as I have been lately, is bound to resurrect long-forgotten traumas and horror. Or, maybe not: I can’t think of anything from my past that justifies those descriptions.

However, after reading one of these Memories posts, my sister recently reminded me of something from our shared past: We were kids and on our annual family camping trip in Wisconsin. She apparently chased me around with a bucket containing crayfish*. She says I screamed. I have no memory of this at all, but I bet the bucket was a pale yellow plastic one with a white grip on the handle (those are the sorts of things I do remember). My sister apparently had a good time chasing me.

I got my own back a few years later: I was with some friends and found a little bird that had fallen out of its nest. I picked up the bird and walked around the corner to our house and got there just as my sister walked out the front door. I told her to look at what I had, and opened my hands to show her the bird. She screamed and took off running. I chased her, a little bewildered. She kept screaming, and running, and I realised that this was great fun—and very funny. I chased her all the way to her friend’s house around the corner and down the street. My sister later told me that her reaction was because a friend had recently found a bird’s nest and picked it up and her arms became covered with fleas. I have absolutely no memory of what I did with the bird.

A few years again and Halloween was nearing. One of the two movie theatres in our city’s downtown (they’re both long gone) was having a triple feature of monster movies (including “Brides of Dracula”). My sister took me to the movies. In the middle of the event, staff in monster costumes came to the front of the auditorium and said, “don’t be surprised if you feel a presence next to you…” and they cut the lights. It was pitch black and people screamed. I don’t remember if either of us screamed, but I do remember we grabbed each other and I lifted my feet onto my chair. I saw a shadowy figure rocking back and forth up front, and a kind of ghost-like like. Then it was over.

I don’t recall us having any further opportunities to scream, though I may have forgotten them, too. I do know that my sister and I had many more adventures after that and, in a way, we still do. These days, though, the challenge is mostly in remembering that past. That alone is sometimes enough to make me scream.

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*Crayfish were pretty common in fresh water in the Midwest, and I always hated them: I thought they were too menacing-looking or something. What New Zealanders call crayfish (or crays) are actually salt water spiny lobsters (which have no claws). The New Zealand freshwater relatives of what Americans call crayfish are usually called Koura.

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