Was he the boogeyman?

I have a haunting memory that occasionally creeps into my thoughts and reminds me how fear can haunt a child’s dreams. When we lived at 6833 Lemon Road in McLean, Virginia, we had in our neighborhood a man that would roam the streets. I never knew what his real name was, but we all called him “The Weasel.” He dressed in dark clothes, a trench coat clutched tightly around his small, skinny frame. I don’t recall his face; I just have an image of him walking with his head down, a worn fedora on his head and his coat held tightly against him. It is seared into my soul.

We were told by our moms to stay away from him – but no other explanation was ever given. When we saw him, we would RUN like the wind to hide in the back yard, or in our garages, convinced he would steal us away if he could catch us.

It was at night when I was trying to sleep in the cozy canopy bed my father made me that I would truly fear the weasel. I was convinced that he was lurking in the dark corners of my room and I wouldn’t allow myself to fall asleep.

When I couldn’t take it any longer, I would crawl out of bed, slide across the floor and sneak into my sister’s room. If I was very careful, I could sneak into her bed without her even knowing. . (Fortunately for ME she is partially deaf, and wouldn’t always hear my clumsy attempts.) I was awakened many mornings by her hitting me with her pillow and yelling at me to “I said stay OUT of my room!!!”

I amassed a number of fears those early days, as do many, many children of that age. I was afraid of snakes, going over bridges, being in the dark, sleeping in my own room, lightning, thunder, the Easter Bunny and my closet.

I can’t recall the precise moment I left those fears of youth behind and slipped on that dangerous cloak of invincibility. You know that cloak, don’t you? We’ve all worn it for a time. It renders us fearless during those tumultuous and painful years of adolescence. We try it on when we are perhaps twelve or thirteen, and we grow into it- until finally it fits like a glove.

We wear it when we hop on our bikes and zoom across town, and when we finally earn those car keys and carry the lives of our friends and ourselves in our hands.

As we grow older, a different kind of fear seems to slowly edge into our soul. The fear that every parent, sibling or friend tries to keep buried inside – the fear of unexpected pain and tragedy when something happens to someone we love. It starts as a seed when you watch your child play with their toys, or when they learn to ride a bike and cross the street. You know they will have a scrape or a bruise, and it hurts to see them in pain.

That fear grows as they do, and when instead of a bike you hand them the keys to your car, then you know what real fear is. It’s what we feel when they have donned their cloak, the invincibility cloak. Only by now WE know it doesn’t work.

And that knowledge that grips my heart when I hand over the keys to the car? I swallow it like a bitter pill, and pray that she will be delivered back to me, safe and sound.


♥ Braja said...

He sounds like Boo Radley.

Fear of the unknown and uncontrollable is something everyone shares---whether they're big enough to admit it or not...

♥ Braja said...

Damned sexy blog girl. DAMNED sexy. :)))

flutter said...

this made my heart all quivery

Tuesday Taylor said...

My aunt had a crazy, mysterious neighbor like that. One night, while visiting in college, I decided to pull a covert, undercover espionage job and crawled like a Marine on my stomach to the edge of his garage to find out what he was doing every late, late night.
I wish I could tell you what I found, but the Wild Turkey I drank that night has wiped it from my memory.

The Half Assed Housewife said...

He wasn't the Boogy Man. He was just a perv. I'm sure. I mean he was wearing the official uniform of pervs everywhere. He might has well have worn a nametag that said "Flasher".

I'm scared of nothingness. The creepiest place in the world is out in the country alone at night. I always imagine all of these creepy people and creatures outside with no neighbors to save me.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, he was probably the town pervert, I agree with HAHW. So, much scarier than the boogeyman, if you ask me.

Desert Songbird said...

That's the balancing act we play as parents; do we dispel the boogeyman image and try to make our children more confident, or do we try to instill a sense of caution? We don't want to make our kids afraid of taking risks, but we don't them to don the invincibility cloak too early and too often.

Sigh. I wish it were easier sometimes.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"the fear of unexpected pain and tragedy when something happens to someone we love"

How do we live with the fear? I well understand your fears. I wish I had the answers. Perhaps not looking at the handing over of the keys each time with pangs of fear. Instead handing them as a rite of passage. That handing them over comes with the look in your eye that proffers careful tendering, with a required safe return.

Sharon Rose said...

This was a very well written post, my dear! That fear of what we have no control over, the "what if's" can nip at our minds. I hate it when that happens!!!!

Buckeroomama said...

Although it will be years and years away before I even have to worry about handing over the keys to the car to my kids, I know now how my dad felt and why he sat on our doorway, in his pajamas, until way past midnight, waiting for me to come home after I had an emergency at work where I had to drive (almost over 90 minutes round-trip) to deliver a tape to a TV station --in the night, --when I'd only ever driven to and from work (20 minutes) until then. New car, me a new driver.

GypsyFox said...

LOL..I was getting really creeped out, I thought you guys were going to discover that he really was some wierdo! glad he wasn't.

Anne said...

My girls are asleep in their beds...the oldest 12...4 years away from driving, yet you still sent shivers up my spine. I have a VERY ACTIVE imagination... I can actually VISUALIZE horrible things if I let my mind run away. I may need to drink my way through the teen years. You can be Martini Mom - me I think maybe I'll be Merlot Mama!

ladytruth said...

This reminds me of my mom and the day she got me a scooter: she cried so much saying it was a deathtrap on wheels that I made her buy me car as soon as possible ;-) I like the metaphor of the "cloak of invincibility"; I still wear it sometimes, but it doesn't fit me that well anymore :)

Joanie said...

Ah, yes, the eternal set of fears we carry. They change each year, but we must have some otherwise we'd end up dead all too soon. Fear keeps us alive. Fear keeps us sane (except when it doesn't).

All we ever do in life is learn to manage it; to give it a secondary role in our life's play.

Gayle said...

The what if's drive me insane during the day when I should be weeding the garden or when I should be a part of the conversation or when I should be sleeping at night. I am only afraid of the what ifs.

Michel said...

That was a great post! However, he was not the boogey-man; he was a langley reject.

I am terrified of heights, to the point that i start to hyperventilate if I stand on a chair.

What the hell is that?!

Michel said...

Love the new design!!!

Now I'm goign to have to update mine in order to keep up with the Braja and Vodka Moms!

Wendy said...

My son just recently started driving on his own, and I keep a prayer in my heart even if he is just going to BK to get something to eat! I don't think we are ever comfortable with there independence

Liz Wilkey (a.k.a. A Mom on Spin) said...

. . . and then we drink . . .

buffalodick said...

People fear many things...Sorting out the "real" from the "imagined" is a good starting point...


Funny how we outgrow fears. One day we just wake up and they are gone. Then we have kids. And a whole new set of fears is born in us again.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i SO know that exact feeling. several times over. you won't sleep until they are home. no matter how hard you try, you won't sleep. i am so sorry. i wish you could just turn a switch and fast forward them from children to mature adults. sigh...

hugs, bee

oh, and the perv was an alcoholic i am sure. ps

Stacy Uncorked said...

I'm SO looking for a pause button so Princess Nagger doesn't get to the driving age...because I'm already dreading that time. :)

Beautifully written as usual - my stomach is in knots! :)

Anonymous said...

WE had a perv in our town too when I was a kid. Kinda made the local girls' skin crawl.

The Blue Ridge Gal

Karen Harrington said...

Chilling and cautionary. Why is it that in our childhoods, there is always that one house on the block, one person?

Love your new blog design too!

Lorraine said...

Frank the garbage collector lived two doors down from us when I was a child. He lived in a garage that was converted to an apartment. Frank wore a hat like the Skipper's from Gilligan's Island and walked like Walter Brennan with a hitch in his gait. He was never clean shaven, but his clothes looked fairly decent. He would stand on the curb in front of his house and watch us. Then there was the woman who lived in the house next to him who looked liked Grandma from the Munsters and claimed to have been beaten with an ashtray by a man who climbed in her bedroom window. I don't know how my mother ever felt safe about us playing outside. Of course those were the days when no one had air-conditioning and all the windows were open in the neighborhood, so you would hear a child scream bloody murder. Not so today. Windows are closed and people are so self-involved.

confused homemaker said...

hell i'm terrified just to let them play in the other room, i'm not going to survive the teen years.

cheatymoon said...

Boy came home last night after being at Dad's for the past few weeks...
and I did not sleep.

Beautifully written, dear.

Christy said...

What a beautiful post. I have started having panic attacks thinking about those adult fears you described...it's so hard to trust it will all be okay.

Craig Glenn said...

How true and compelling VM. It's funny to grow up and realize how silly our worst fears were only to realize that the real dangers are far worse than the one's we made up.

As parents, a veil is lifted from our eyes and we begin to see the true fraility of life in our kids. It's a scary vision.

Loved the post VM


Keyona said...

Ok, now I'm officially afraid to let Lael grow up. Is it a requirement to let her drive BEFORE 25?!?

mommakin said...

Beautiful expression of a universal fear...

blognut said...

This Boogeyman of yours may have just been the neighborhood eccentric. Usually, I've found, the Boogeyman looks to be a regular guy for all intents and purposes, and then he turns on ya'. Trust me - he lived in my house.

Laura said...

I remember a lot of my "first time I feared" moments
fear of being kidnapped
fear of being made fun of
fear of getting fat
fear of failure

i carry fear around with me, still, to this day, like my daughter carries her stuffed puppy dog...
on my shoulder
always there
never too far away

hate that
the fear
not the stuffed dog

Sandee said...

The cycle of life honey, the cycle of life. We just view it from different perspectives as we go from childhood to adulthood.

Have a terrific day. Big hug. :)

Maureen at IslandRoar said...

This was poignant and beautiful. I got goosebumps.
Thank you!

Diane J. said...

Thank you for this post. I can now show my husband who doesn't seem as fearful as I do about our son getting his permit. Because in one year, he'll be off in the car without us. I think I need some sedatives for this phase of teenhood.

Ms. Salti said...

Very nicely written!

Fancy Schmancy said...

I have very little time left before I also will have to face that fear. Nice new blog!

Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Great post. I have so many fears as a mother. I look like a relaxed mom, but I fear not doing a good job with my kids. I try to counteract this with a huge dose of HOPE, but I am afraid that the fears that ooze out of my pores will be picked up on by my kids.

Malisa said...

Just wait until you hit menopause! All those ugly fears we keep hidden sneak into your thoughts all day and all night! P.S. Drugs work.


Vodka Logic said...

I am still afraid of the dark. *blush*

david mcmahon said...

Some human beings are even more menacing that bogeymen.

Not many, thank goodness.

Lawyer Mom said...

I think we're all trying to control our environment . . . especially when we're children. So if we can make a list of our "scaries," whatever else is not on it is not to be feared.

Confucious say, anyway . . .

darsden said...

oooh you post gave me chills and now I don't want to go upstairs and go to bed, I am scared!

Deb said...

Hi ~ Just arrived via Authorblog. Congrats on POTD and it is easy to see why - so many can relate to your writing - and the last sentence sent shivers through me and forced me to remember the days when my kids started driving. With the help of many prayers, and a occasional Cosmopolitan or two, I survived! Happy blogging!

Craig Glenn said...

congrats! POTD...


Square Peg Guy said...

I've heard it said that great writing taps into Universal Truth. This is such a good example of that!

When I got to the part "I was afraid of snakes ... lightning, thunder, the Easter Bunny and my closet," I was going make a lame comment that you'd probably have a heart attack if you found the Easter Bunny hiding in your closet at night during a thunderstorm that tripped the lights.

Our 11-yo daughter is just entering the Fearless Years. Although I've let her loose on the Internet already (3 years earlier than I originally planned) I only feel the fear about my wife, who may have Lupus.

All the best!

Square Peg Guy said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that I think “The Weasel” moved into our town about a year ago (after traveling back in time so that he's not too old).

Square Peg Guy said...

pps: you can e-mail me at square.peg@sbcglobal.net

Cheffie-Mom said...

Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!

Rena Jones said...

The Weasel sounded creepy. My SIL used to live in McLean, VA. It's hard being a parent when your kids start to drive.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

A very well deserved POTD - This was heart-touchingly beautiful, VKMom - Your soul shines, sweetheart, and your writing gleams like a pin! Bless you xox

anymommy said...

Yep. Gulp. Haunting and true.

AS Amber said...

How is Braja always the first to comment? Do you send her a pre-post post?

Loved this. I wonder what "the weasel" was up to all those nights? I wonder if he really was scary or dangerous?

I wonder where he is now.

WeaselMomma said...

I. I was away and missed this post. A few thoughts:
Weasels aren't scary! (I married one).

B. I gave Eldest Weasel her 1st driving lesson this week, the cloak doesn't work. My heart is still in my throat.

3. This was a really great post.

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