Friday, October 8, 2010

Recurring Nightmares

I want my Little Monster to experience some of the movies I watched and loved as a kid. Many of these movies scared me, and I constantly have to evaluate how ready she is for some of these films. Many of them seem corny and cheesy when re-watching them as an adult, but I have to keep in mind that The Monster still has the mind and imagination of a four-year-old. She has seen some movies much earlier than I did. Of course part of the fun of watching monster/horror/scary movies is to be scared. On the other hand, there's a fine line between "fun" scary and "emotionally scarring" scary. For the most part I've avoided subjecting The Monster to stuff that would give her bad nightmares. The toughest part of this whole thing is having to not show her something that I really love because I don't think she's ready for it yet. It's difficult but imperative that I make sure I do this.

I was a kid myself a long time ago. Thanks to local television channels (most specifically the show Creature Double Feature on Boston's WLVI channel 56) and a sister who took me to some movies I was probably a bit too young to be watching, I saw a good number of monster/horror/scince-fiction movies as a kid. I wasn't especially prone to nightmares, but I certainly had my share. To this day I still vividly recall two recurring nightmares that I experienced a number of times each. The memory of waking up in terror after having these dreams is part of the reason I want to be so careful about exactly what I show The Monster--and when. I've had many dreams and nightmares over the years, but most of them tend to fade pretty quickly from my mind and memory after waking up. These two were different. I'm sure at least part of the reason was the simple fact that they were both repeated a number of times.


I would be sitting in the upstairs (second floor) living room of my childhood home. The fact that this was the room in which I watched Creature Double Feature most of the time might have something to do with the setting. From way off in the distance I'd suddenly hear a loud pounding noise similar to far-off thunder. Somehow I knew that this noise was the sound of Godzilla stomping around downtown. Of course the sound incrementally got louder as Godzilla walked through the center of town and started heading...straight for my house. I couldn't see the monster approaching, and for some reason I couldn't leave the room either. The living room had three large windows, and I felt like I needed to hide out-of-sight of those windows to be safe. The only place to go was a closet in one corner of the room. I say "closet" even though this particular closet only had one wall. The side facing the closest window was completely open and in plain view of said window. The footsteps grew louder as Godzilla walked up the hill that my street was on. I knew he was very near the house as I cowered in the corner of the closet, trying me best to be invisible. Suddenly Godzilla was right outside the house. He would peer right into that one window that I couldn't hide from. I'd see his gigantic eye looking in at me and...wake up breathless and in a cold sweat. To the best of my knowledge this dream never varied. I don't know exactly why I had it, or why it kept recurring, but it did.

Many years later I was reminded of just how tuned into the mind of child Steven Spielberg is when I watched "Jurassic Park" (1993) for the first time. The scene where the T-Rex gets loose and first terrorizes the people in the tour cars included a moment where it peers into the window of the car that has the two little kids in it. It was eerily similar to what I remembered my dream being like. Check out this video to see the scene in question. The part similar to what I experienced in my nightmare takes place at about 1:10 into it.


This dream featured a dinosaur instead of Godzilla (more shades of "Jurassic Park"), but was somewhat similar in its tone. I wasn't especially interested in dinosaurs as a kid. There was a basic interest of course--I mean they were dinosaurs and I was a kid after all. The old Sid and Marty Krofft show "Land of the Lost" was probably responsible for the dinosaur in this dream. The most interesting aspect of this nightmare is that, unlike the first one, this one did have a variation.

This nightmare took place at my childhood home as well. In this case I was outside though. Standing near a small tree by the side of the road I was suddenly aware that, from behind, a large dinosaur (T-Rex?) was charging out of the woods toward me (we lived at the end of a dead-end street that and there were woods almost all around our house). The dinosaur came from the opposite direction that Godzilla came from in the first nightmare--Godzilla walked up the street while the dinosaur came out of the woods.

Upon seeing the dinosaur and realizing it was coming for me, I naturally tried to run way. I went through the motions of running but (as is common in dreams) couldn't get anywhere. It was as if I was running in a vat of molasses. As I futilely tried to escape, the dinosaur closed in on me. I watched from above as the beast opened its huge jaws and leaned down toward me and...woke up breathless and in a cold sweat. End of nightmare.

You know how they say that if you die in your dreams you will die in real life? Well, as I said, this nightmare had a variation. One time I was experiencing the dinosaur nightmare as usual. As scary as it always was, I think there was also a kind of familiarity that I developed after having these dreams so many times. I don't want to say I was comfortable with them, but it did seem that I was somehow aware that I was dreaming while having them. This awareness became obvious when the dinosaur bent over to pick me up. I was kind of waiting to wake up and was surprised to have the dinosaur actually clamp onto my shirt and start picking me up. This had never happened before and I was suddenly aware not only of the fact that it hadn't happened before, but also of the fact that I was about to be eaten by this dinosaur. The simple fear of being eaten by a dinosaur was supplemented by the fact that I was convinced that if I died in the dream I'd die in real life. Whether it was the end of the dream, or the awareness of the fact that it was a dream woke me up I don't know. all I do know is that, for a long time afterward I was terrified that I'd have the dream again and it would end with me being eaten by the dinosaur. To this day I've never had the nightmare again. I hope it stays that way.

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