Monday, October 12, 2009


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So, I have previously mentioned #1 daughter’s fear and disgust when she even catches a glimpse of a baby doll. I’ve tried to trace this back to see what may have triggered this trepidation when it comes to this most popular of toys. When I was a child, I adored dolls and had quite a collection; a collection that I displayed on top of the wardrobe standing across from Lily’s crib. Oh… Did I inadvertently traumatize my eldest for life by placing these replicas of human children high above her infant form long before she possessed the ability to express her terror and request that I remove them? Oh, bad, bad Mama!

Once she could speak and articulate her fear, the dolls were quickly moved from her presence and have remained boxed ever since, but I fear the damage is done. She has never like them, never wanted to play with them and shuns the site of them. In fact, as mentioned in a previous post, she claims the site of them causes her to lose her appetite and make her feel sick. Weird. Now, Barbies, Brats, even Meika’s new Ling doll, she enjoys to a limited extent and when I ask her why this is so she tells me because they represent teenagers, not babies. The Ling doll, which really is quite beautiful, now resides on top of the wardrobe, the former home to all those other baby dolls, but because Ling is not a ‘baby’ Ling is admired rather than met with apprehension.

Stuff animals she has galore and plays with them endlessly, Lily loves critters, she loves them all… except monkeys. When asked, she will tell you she doesn’t like the way they move, or that she just doesn’t know why she despises them so. But I, the Mama think that again, it was me who, though not purposely, none-the-less instilled an abiding fear in my dear child. At the time of her adoption a friend sent a life-sized, crouching, very realistic looking monkey as a gift for her. It was the same size as she was, she being less than a year old. One day I set her and the stuffed monkey on the coach to take a picture of them together for my friend. She took one look, one very recognizable look of shear panic, and started screaming her head off. I quickly removed the beast, but I think it marked her for life. Again, bad, bad, Mama! We still have the monkey, but he is locked away in the attic, and frankly, when I go in there and see him hunkered down in the corner I shutter myself.

This summer, we discovered a fear that Lily has that is so distressing to her that it can paralyze her in a fit of fear. What scares her so? What causes her to stiffen in panic and screech in utter terror sending lightning bolts of dread and dismay through her mother? It is this, the discarded casings of cicadas. For some unknown reason, below the surface of our backyard reside a city of cicadas, and each spring they emerge to latch themselves to the bark of our trees and transform into their winged and green, twittering selves. I rather enjoy the seasonal sounds of cicadas; a calm inducing night time chorus starting from hushed and slow beginnings and gradually building to the satisfying rapid chirping that denotes a hot and peaceful summer night. And indeed, Lily has absolutely no problem with the winged creatures, it is their casings, left behind clinging to trees, the fence, blades of grass and even to our house that send her into hysterics. I initially had no idea she had this aversion until one day this summer she was outside getting ready to feed the dog and she started to scream. The kind of screaming that denotes either extreme terror, severe pain or that one of the Jonas Brothers has just come into our yard. The kind of heart stopping don’t-even-stop-to-think-get-yourself-to-your-kid-NOW kind of scream. I was only a few feet away on the patio, and turned to see her standing in the middle of the yard, clutching a dog food can with both hands until her knuckles were white, her eyes closed and her mouth wide in that horrible cry of sheer terror. All sorts of things flew through my mind in that split second; is she hurt? Don’t see any blood; is there a snake in the grass? Don’t see a snake. Did she cut off a finger on the can of dog food? See all ten fingers. And in a few seconds I am standing in front of her shaking and still screaming form trying to break through to her, but she isn’t stopping and she isn’t telling me what is wrong, she just goes on shrieking and shrieking. Neighbors come out of their houses and start yelling too, what’s wrong, what’s wrong?! I have to actually take Lily by the shoulders and shake her a little to get her to TELL ME WHAT IS WRONG!!! She pries one of her hands off the can of dog food to point at the spot in front of my feet. Sitting in the grass is one single cicada casing, all fragile and lonely. “What? I don’t see anything, what?”

“That BUG! AAAAHHHH!!!!”

“What? This?” and I pick it up. Her eyes widen to colossal saucers and she screams some more. “You have GOT to be kidding me! THIS is what you are screaming about?! This is just an empty shell, honey, watch.” And I drop it and step on it and crush it into non-existence. She stops screaming, but she goes on shaking and crying. It takes a while to calm her after I shout to the neighbors that it is alright, it was just a cicada casing and rolling my eyes in embarrassment. But Lily’s fear is real even if it seems exaggerated to me, she is genuinely petrified. I can’t help but chastise her for making me think that she was in real danger. I tell her that I think that she is overreacting a bit.

“But Mama, aren’t YOU ever scared of something?”

“Fair enough, you’re right, I’m sorry. But you scared the livin’ daylights out of me you know.” So we spend the entire summer with her pleading dreaded cicadas in order not to have to go into the yard to do any chores. I tell her she needs to work it through and confront her fears and so watch her pick her way slowly across the yard to reach the critters every day; see her examine the swing in minute detail before sitting on it; stare for long minutes at a time at the gate before touching it. But she muddles through while I run around the yard when she isn’t looking stomping into oblivion any casings I see. I just don’t understand what is so scary about an empty shell. This is a child who regularly carries around worms, and daddy long legs and toads. I child who would gladly run into a cage of crocodiles if it meant she could touch them, and she is afraid of this wisp of insect carcass?

And then, one day not long after this incident I am in the laundry room, minding my own laundry business when something hits my knee. I look down to find myself staring at and being stared back at by a CAMEL CRICKET! Now, many people who are reading this are probably not familiar with camel crickets, in fact, I was unaware of their existence until I moved south of the Mason-Dixon, so let me tell you, I am a fan of the cricket, the normal, black, chirping cricket. The kind in Mulan. The Jiminy Cricket kind. If I find one in my house I leave it, sighting the old Irish lore that they are lucky to have in your home. But CAMEL CRICKETS! Ha! These horrid creatures should not even BARE the name cricket. Okay, they have big old legs, in fact, their legs are freakishly large, and they sort of have a cricket like head, but these mutants are EVIL! SHEER EVIL I tell you! They are one of those bugs that seem to have intelligence far beyond what a bug should have. They are downright aggressive! They like damp and dark, so they like those soggy towels in the laundry basket. They like the shadowy, creepy corners of a tiled room. They like the big old bowl of cat food sitting there inviting them in. And when you unsuspectedly open the door to the laundry room, flip on the light and see them gleefully hopping across your floor? and this is the WORST! THIS is what makes them so evil; they don’t run and hide, they stop. They stare back at you. And then…oh I can hardly bring myself to utter the words…they don’t use those big back legs to chirp, in fact, they don’t make any sound at all, they use those big, horrible, hairy legs to JUMP ON YOU! Yes folks, these creepy-crawly fiends JUMP RIGHT AT YOUR BODY. Frankly, the mere sight of them totally makes my skin crawl. I mean it, it crawls, and just the thought of them makes my whole body do that trembly thing all over. I am absolutely terrified of these bugs. The picture I have attached to this post? Each time I glimpse it I convulse.

So, this summer, for the first time in this house, there is an infestation of camel crickets. I read up on how to get rid of them, why they are in my house, where they could be coming from. Apparently, they creep in through cracks and windows, but I don’t have cracks or open windows, so the only place left is through the drier vent. Oh horrors! To think that they might be creeping into my dryer and are being tossed about with my clean clothes is just too much. Each time I open the door to that room, I flip on the light and scan the area before setting one toe in. If I spot one, well, that is bad enough, but if I want it to die it means I will have to try and stomp it, and that isn’t easy because they SEE you coming, they anticipate your every move, they gang up on you, and while you are busy trying to flatten their creepy butts, they are leaping at you! It is battle full on! Screaming ensues on both sides and I am sure I look like a total fool hopping around in Wellington boots, a plunger in one hand, a golf club in the other trying to smash these huge and horrible creatures. And yes, if I succeed, because they grow to such great dimensions, there is then the almost equally disgusting disposal of the body to deal with, causing me trauma and non-stop quivering for the rest of the day.

But the absolute worst of the worst was one day, while going about my business; I went into the laundry room to get something. I forgot to case the joint first and walked in, retrieved what I was looking for and went back into the kitchen. I was standing at the counter reading a recipe when I spot something move out of the corner of my eye. Something move ON MY SHOULDER! I reacted swiftly and like a ninja, I didn’t bother to look at whatever it was first, because it was BIG, I just swept it from my person onto the floor and THEN I looked. Yup, you guessed it, the biggest, fattest, hairiest camel cricket in existence was eyeing me right back. THA-WAP! I got him before he got me, but the resulting hysterically trembling, creepy crawly skin and whimpering that resulted lasted for hours.

So what do I do now when I see one of these mutants of nature? Why, I call Lily of course, because camel crickets don’t bother her in the least. Nope. She will deal with them for me. Oh the shame, I must call my nine year old to come and smash the big bad bug because I cannot stand the site of them. And she will want to pick it up and take it outside. “NO, NO, NO! KILL IT! KILL IT!”And she says to me, “Mama, don’t you think that you are overreacting a bit?” And I say, “NO! No I am NOT overreacting. And I will never say another word to you about your fear of cicada casings. Never! Deal?”

“Deal Mama.”

©KKW 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009


To say that the town in which I grew up, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, has a large Catholic population would be an understatement; when I was growing up in Parma it was just assumed that you went to one of the gianormus Catholic parishes in town. While in high school I had only one friend who went to a protestant church. One. She was Lutheran. After spending one Saturday with her, my friend’s mother offered to drive me home, but first she needed to drop something off at their church. She asked if I wanted to see their sanctuary and I replied that I would. I thought it was lovely and simple and very blue, far different than the pomp, marble, gold and spender of Saint Chuck’s (Charles) Romanesque architecture where my family attended. When I mentioned my amazement at the simplicity of their church building at dinner later that day my father totally freaked that I had been take to, and been physically present in, a church building that was not Catholic. A building that had not been ‘blessed’ and sanctified; its pews and dais liberally drenched in holy water. I had no idea that it was against Catholic law to set foot in a protestant church. He threatened to call “this woman” and straighten her out about exposing my poor innocent soul to the corrupting influence of a Protestant church building. Fortunately, my mother calmed him down, but thus was the atmosphere of being raised in a Catholic family in a town full of them.

Once I had moved to the south after college, Catholic churches became a rarity, they are speckled here and there, but the Baptist and Christian churches seem to be favored here. A few years ago while visiting Ohio during the Christmas season, Lily having never been in a resplendent Catholic church building, I thought that she would enjoy it and so we attended a midnight mass with my aunt. My daughter was used to a lot of socializing before the services back home in the realm of the plain and simple churches that we had attended. The silence as we sat waiting for the mass to begin that Christmas Eve and the sheer splendor of the building in which we waited was unnerving to her. My kid is just NOT used to having to be quiet…for anything, but the stillness in this gothic marble space was so overpowering, and the sites so brilliant and foreign that for once she was relatively quiet. At least that is until the mass started and the questions began. Most were asked while the chanting and singing were going on, so her urgent questions and my whispered answers were not much of a disturbance. But then came the communion with all those around us going up to the front of the church to receive the host and wine while Lily and I stayed seated. She watched and she waited and then while a reverent hush lay over the congregation she indignantly asked “Hey Mom, why do THEY get a snack and juice and we don’t? Not fair! I want a snack too!” Now in a southern church anyone hearing that would laugh freely, but in a Catholic church people either tried to pretend they hadn’t heard her or we were given the evil eye. And I KNOW that everyone heard her because the acoustics are really good that way in such a vast gothic hall.

Anyway… I had not visited the town in which my father lived during the summer time for nearly twenty years, if I was able to make it to Ohio it was usually during the frigid winter holidays. So it was with much delight that I discovered yard sale signs popping up all over the neighborhood at the end of the week that I was there. I am a total sucker for a yard sale, and as we were attempting to leave early on a Saturday to head back to Virginia, the van just didn’t get very far as we encountered sale after sale after sale. The signs and set ups of these suburban sales were truly amazing. The yard sales I am used to where we live are sort of slapped up affairs with all the stuff thrown on a blanket in the yard and you have to ask how much everything is, which is fine, no worries, it’s a yard sale, but let me tell you, Parma, Ohio knows how to put together a yard sale sister! Everything was so organized and clean and all the stuff had price tags. Items were neatly laid out for viewing on tables and grouped by category, it really was dreadfully impressive, and it was like this at every single one. PLUS, there were SIGNS that had the date on them and actually led you to the sale, unlike the signs in the country where we live that might have been up for months because apparently it never occurs to anyone to date them or to go back and take DOWN their signs after the yard sale is over. The drooping florescent posters in Lousia could lead on a many miles long and winding trip to nowhere. Wasteful and incredibly frustrating! Once you’ve gone down one of our country roads, you might drive for days before encountering a crossroads or a highway sign. It’s like a short story by Stephen King; the-never-ending-country-road-to-nowhere-that-you-can’t-get-off-of. I’ve actually ended up several counties over on occasion by following one of these errant signs, and rather than turning around because I have already come so far, I continue to remain optimistic that I will come upon another road in which to put my hope and in so doing end up in West Virginia. Ah, but I digress yet again…

So there I was in suburbia, perusing the racks of children’s clothing and shelves of chotskies when I spotted ‘Toddler Jesus’ in the free box. TODDLER JESUS, in the FREE box y’all! He is adorable AND FREE?! He is by far the cutest Jesus I have ever seen and I quickly snatched him up and held him tight. One of the women having the yard sale sees my delight and comments on it; I tell her that I haven’t seen one of these since moving to the south. “Well then, you might want to keep it hidden.” She says facetiously, “You could find a burning cross in your front yard some night.” Oh dear, she doesn’t exactly have a very positive picture of the south now does she? I assure her that no one will place a burning cross in my yard if I take home Toddler Jesus. She then asks why I am in town if I live in the south. I tell her I am there for my father’s memorial service. She asks what parish the funeral was done at and which priest performed it. SEE? SEE? She just ASSUMES. All I know to tell her is that the priest is called Father Russ, and was a friend of my father’s. “Oh!” she replies, “He is at Saint Leo’s. He’s wonderful!” All righty then, glad she approves.

Having appeased the church ladies, I departed with my treasure back to the minivan and looked him over. It had been so long since seeing one of these, and never had I seen one so cute! He is dressed as a little king in a red, lace trimmed robe, cape and crown and is holding a sphere with a cross on top in one hand while giving a two fingered benediction with his other. (Sure, MY toddler stands around like that all the time). I was so used to having seen this version of wee Jesus that when daughter #1 asked why he was dressed the way he was, I had to admit that I really didn’t know, I’d never really thought about it. She was quite puzzled though and asked, “Mama, why is he wearing a red cape? Do they think he is Super Man?” and before I could answer that I didn’t know, she continues with, “Well, I guess he sort of is, isn’t he?” She then wanted to know what you were supposed to do with him. I told her that when I was a child many people attached them to the dashboards of their cars and I demonstrated. “But why?” She wanted to know. “Well, I guess they thought that it would protect them from accidents, kind of like a good luck charm, but I have always thought that if you are going to attach him to the dash he should really be facing this way so that he can see where he is going“, and I turned the little statue to face the windshield. A sigh and an “Oh Mom.” Is what I got in return. But to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know why he was dressed in such an elegant way, or why he was being depicted as a child in the first place rather than an adult Jesus. It is just one of those things that you grow up seeing around you so often that to actually think about the ‘whys’ never occurs to you. After all, I grew up in the land of ‘Bathtub Marys’ and plastic pink flamingos in every other yard, so baby dolls dressed up in lacy finery meant to represent a young Jesus was just something you saw all over the place. Toddler Jesus watches over restaurants and bars from perches high on a shelf next to the TV broadcasting the sports channel. He peers from shop windows, peeks from behind cash registers and gazes down from fireplace mantels in private homes. But it did spark a need to know, so once back home I set to finding out what I could about this dapper little guy even though I had no idea what this kind of depiction of the Christ child might be called. Still, it didn’t take long to find the information I was searching for on the internet by entering in a brief description, (bless the web’s little mechanical heart).

Apparently, these statues are meant to be copies of The Infant Jesus of Prague which is housed in the Church Of Our Lady Of Victory in Bohemia ( it certainly makes since that he would be so popular in northern Ohio since most families in the area have roots in eastern Europe and Italy). The Infant of Prague is considered a “miraculous image”, and here are the basics of the story: in 1620, Ferdinand, Emperor of Austria won in a battle against the united Protestant armies near the city of Prague. He attributed his success to the infant Jesus because just before the battle, as he and his Catholic advisors were preparing to attack, the priest that ministered to them, a learned Carmelite priest called Father Dominic, held high a painting of the nativity of Jesus and exhorted the emperor to go forth in unwavering confidence in the all-powerful help of the infant Jesus. Apparently, they did so and interpreted their victory as reward for their faith. In gratitude, the Emperor founded a Carmelite monastery at Prague. So things went along for a few years, the infant Jesus not really playing much of a part in the life of the monastery until one day, a noble lady came to the city to visit her daughter, the Princess Polixena. She was presented with the gift of a highly prized family heirloom; a wooden statue with a wax coating representing the infant Jesus in all his majestic splendor. He was clothed in a well decorated dress and mantle, and held a globe of the world topped with a cross to represent his kingly sovereignty (called an Imperial Orb), and his other hand held in a sign of peace. Later, the Princess decided to give the little king to the Carmelites with the direction to honor the infant so that they would never be wanting. Through these early years, the image came to be associated with the fulfillment of answered prayers, thus it being venerated as “miraculous”.

Unfortunately, in 1631 the Swedish Protestant army invaded Prague and Catholic churches and monasteries were pillaged, the wee statue was tossed upon a pile of garbage where it lay for seven years, its tiny hands broken off. When once again the priests were restored to their monastery, there came a novice named Cyirlus who remembered the statue and searched for it until it was found once more. He claimed the statue spoke to him and commanded that its hands be restored to it. Once he had recovered from the shock of being addressed by a wooden doll covered in refuse, he set to finding a benefactor to pay for the restoration. He found one that gave him so much money that he decided to replace the entire statue. When the imposter was set in the original’s place however, it was quickly struck down by a falling candlestick and broken to pieces. The prior became very ill and had to resign and everyone took this as a sign that the original statue was very displeased that it still did not have its hands after SPECIFICALLY asking for them to be given back. The new prior set to restoring the hands to the original statue. Once happily re-establish and given a new gold plated shrine, the little statue once again set to dispensing its favor and in recognition of this, was given a crown to complete his regal ensemble in 1655. And there he has remained to this day, being reproduced by the millions and distributed throughout the world. Wow.

Have I mentioned Lily’s revulsion towards baby dolls? Dolls depicting teenagers or women are apparently fine for some reason, so Barbie and Brats are no problem, but baby dolls totally give her creeps. Lily claims to be so repulsed by the site of a baby doll that she can’t eat if one is in the same room. She claims that they make her sick. My Toddler Jesus has remained in the minivan since I acquired him and Lily claims that the site of him is causing her great distress. Even if I turn him around so that he is facing away from her, she still protests. So I guess that Toddler Jesus is going to have to find somewhere to reside out of Lily’s site. Perhaps I could use him as a guard to keep my kid from ‘borrowing’ my stuff. Can you imagine? Every time Lily goes to peek into one of my drawers out pops Toddler Jesus. No, I am not so cruel as to use him for such a purpose. Although, to rig something up where a disembodied voice moans “My hands! Give me back my hands!” when an off-limits drawer is opened IS quite tempting. But no, it won’t be gold plated, but I will find a shelf somewhere in the house for ‘TJ’ to rest upon. I will keep the little guy close at hand so that when I am confused about a decision that must be made, he will remind me to ask ‘What Would Toddler Jesus Do?’ WWTJD y’all.

©KKW 2009