It’s been a rough couple of days, hasn’t it? I don’t know about you, but lately my mind has been preoccupied with thoughts of earthquake kits, tsunami warnings and radiation clouds floating across the Pacific. Yet of course this anxiety pales in comparison to the real suffering of those who have actually been affected by the events of last week. I still have my home. My family. My life.

It got me to thinking how much easier it all was as a child. Being a kid was great, wasn’t it? Cartoons, naps and snacks. Sounds pretty nice right about now. Not to say that I didn’t grow up during some rather stressful times. I remember hearing “Cold War” and “communism” thrown around quite a bit. I knew that the man with the funny-looking birthmark on his head was supposedly a bad guy. Like Reagan, I wanted him to tear down that wall. Really, though, I had no idea what any of that meant. As a kid, my biggest fear was my giraffe.

He wasn’t a real giraffe. Had that been the case, this would be an entirely different story. A real giraffe would have been sweet. But no… This was a stuffed giraffe. A ginormous stuffed giraffe that scared the hell out of me. This monstrosity towered over my four-year-old frame; I swear he was the size of a real flesh and blood giraffe. (Okay, not really, but for sure a baby one.) I don’t remember how this thing came into my life. I have no recollection of receiving him as a gift; one day he was just there, and I hated him from the moment I laid eyes on him.

I refused to play with the giraffe. I refused to even give him a name. He was like Voldemort, “He Who Must Not Be Named,” and in my opinion just as evil. I tried to get him as far away from me as possible, so I stuffed him into a corner of my bedroom and attempted to hide him with other toys. Didn’t help much. I could feel him watching me as I played with my Barbies.

I never told my family of this fear. On some level I knew it was a tad irrational. Why should I be afraid of him? He was a big, cuddly giraffe. Plus, I had already tried to communicate my uneasiness regarding some rather creepy toys and was politely brushed off. That time it was my Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. They totally freaked me out, too. You know that speech Quint gives in Jaws? “He’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes.” He was talking about Raggedy Ann and Andy.

As those concerns – fairly reasonable ones I’d say – fell on deaf ears, I knew that any whimper made about a cute giraffe would be quickly dismissed by my parents. Sometimes it wasn’t so bad, though. In the middle of the day, when the sun was shining and the birds were chirping, the giraffe wasn’t so totally scary. I could almost forget that he was there. But at night… That’s when my worst fears about that beast would manifest themselves into terrible nightmares.

I was one of those kids who ran straight to her parents after a bad dream. It was second nature. No way was I going to stay in my room with the thing that just attacked me in my subconscious, and this giraffe was the star of many, many nightmares. Thing is, my house at that time was shaped like a giant “U” with my room at one end of it and my parents’ bedroom at the other end. So upon waking from my dream, I had to run like the wind through the entire house (in the dark!) to get to the safety of my parents’ bed. Didn’t matter. The protection and comfort of their bedroom was well worth the risk of possible death from whatever other creatures lurked in our home. The giraffe was just that scary.

I recall one time when, after having endured the usual bad dream, I booked it to my parents’ room. However, my father wasn’t having it that night and somehow convinced me to go back to sleep. I remember his hand gently guiding me through my bedroom’s doorway with a reassuring, “Nighty night.” I entered the quiet darkness. My bed was five, maybe six, steps away. Against my better judgment, I turned to look at the monster on the other side of the room… And that’s when he attacked. I stood there, immobilized with fear, as he galloped full-speed and tackled me to the ground… I woke up punching my pillow. I kid you not folks. It was freaking Inception. A dream within a dream. That’s how bad my neurosis was with this thing.

Then one day he was gone. I don’t know where he went; he just disappeared. I don’t know if the dark circles under my eyes finally evoked some much overdue compassion from my parents, or if the giraffe himself decided that he was bored and wanted to go creep out some other little girl. Whatever it was, just as mysteriously as he came into my life, the giraffe exited the same way.

I’m not afraid of my dreams anymore; it’s the waking nightmares that aren’t so easy to shake. Like I said, it was so much easier as a kid… Though I don’t miss that damn giraffe one bit. Or Raggedy Ann and Andy. Or clowns. Don’t even get me started on clowns.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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4 Responses to “Going To My Happy Place”

I laughed so hard
“… I refused to play with the giraffe. I refused to even give him a name. He was like Voldemort, “He Who Must Not Be Named,””

March 17th, 2011

Thank you, Caroline! I love making people laugh!

March 17th, 2011

I can totally relate to this one, as I had an Annie poster that would wag her finger at me and stare at me wherever I was in the room. Bitch.

March 18th, 2011

HAHAHA!! You just made me cry with laughter! Love it!

March 18th, 2011