When I was thirteen, I got a babysitting job for some neighbors that lived down the street. After hanging up the phone, I checked the calendar and realized that *gasp* I had just agreed to baby-sit on Friday the 13th.
I handled this realization with typical teenage aplomb, dramatically lamenting about how horrible and terrible it would be. I was all, “Ohmyga, like, it’s gonna be soooooooo scary to baby-sit on, like, Friday the 13th. Like, what am I gonna do – like…?”
I think my parents responded with an eye roll and snicker. Heartless.
Finally, the big day arrived. I had asked a friend to go with me because I figured there was power in numbers and if any crazed psychopaths came knocking on our door I could sacrifice her and run for my life.
Once we finally settled the baby in his bed, we sat down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and put in a documentary on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Why did we choose to watch that? Hard to say – that’s a part of this memory that baffles me. All I know is that just as the shot rang out on the grassy knoll, we heard it – a scratching sound on the back porch.
Both of us froze, afraid to even glance at one another. Then we heard the bang of a chair falling over. My friend yelped and jumped on top of me. I pulled a pillow over my face and the bowl of popcorn thudded to the floor. It was like a bad horror movie when everything slowed down. I could hear nothing but the rapid beating of my heart.
“What should we do?” my friend gasped.
“I’ll run upstairs and grab the baby – you call 911,” I replied, my breathing ragged.
“How about I go get the baby and you stay down here with the killer?” my friend said back. Clearly, neither one of us was feeling overly self-sacrificial.
At that moment, three short raps rang from the back door. At this point, my friend is nearly in tears, her face hidden in her hands. I poked my head out from under the pillow and could see the silhouette of a man standing on the other side of the glass. I was just about to let loose the blood curdling scream that only a girl of 13 could produce when I heard, “Kelli? Let me in – it’s cold out here.”
It was my FATHER. In a sick and twisted moment of cruelty, he thought it would be a good idea to come over and scare us, knowing how dramatic we had been about babysitting that night.
After opening the door and giving him an earful (Dad, like you are soooooo lame. We were, like, tooootally gonna call the cops on you, blah, blah, blah) I giggled a little, because, well, it was pretty funny.
My dad was notorious for scaring the ever lovin’ life out of us as kids. My brother, who was terrified of “basement monsters,” would creep down the stairs only to come tearing back up when my dad would let out a howl from behind him. My dad found an odd measure of glee in watching us scream in terror. And the funny part is that even though he genuinely scared us senseless, we always came back for more. There was something oddly comforting about being so scared, yet deep down knowing we were just fine.
And, I have to admit, now that I’m a parent – it is pretty funny. Last week, our back door, which hadn’t been closed all the way, blew open in a gust of wind.
“Maybe it’s a ghost,” I whispered to my kids and I crept slowly to the door. Gripping the knob, I yanked it all the way open and let out a piercing scream. Sloan screamed too, his eyes wide with terror. When he realized I was joking, he broke out in a peal of delighted laughter.
Tia, however, did not appreciate the twisted humor. She glared at me for half an hour and refused to sit next to me at lunch. For some reason this made me laugh even more. (And I did apologize to her later – I’m not totally heartless.)
I’m not sure what it is, but giving your kids a healthy little scare is just hilarious. Perhaps it’s a little payback for the sleepless nights? Or maybe, as in my case, it’s the perpetuating of a cycle that started long ago with my own father. Whatever it is, to hear their little screams and then listen to them break out in short little bursts of fearful laughter-those are good times. Or maybe that’s just me…
After all, I am a little sick and twisted.