Monday, July 7, 2008
Magic Number 5
I love thunderstorms, and the later they come in the evening the better! I have spent the past twenty something years in a hot dessert area where 100 degree days is a good part of the year and these hot days can be better used to fry eggs on our pavements. Any sign of a thunderstorm is a welcome sprinkle of life not to mention a water bill saving at the end of the month. Water is expensive in hot areas and sometimes worth more than the $4/gallon gas. But when I was a little boy, I remember being MORE afraid of the THUNDER than the LIGHTENING!!! What's up with that?! I guess it's because it comes suddenly without a moment's notice. Anyone else used to be afraid of the Big, Bad, Boom??!!! Or the one eye sharp teeth monster in the closet?? The giant creature with tentacles underneath our beds, headless and legless ghost hovering down the midnight hallway while you try to get a cup of milk, weird noises calling your name from the pond in the backyard, and gross creatures coming out of the TV. How's that for some childhood memories?
My real childhood fear was water, and I wouldn't even go near it. It included swimming pools, lakes, and the beach. It makes my childhood life a lot harder considering my house was right next to the beach. You can say, I lived in fear growing up so close to a big mass of water. After school the neighborhood kids or my classmates would spend time on the beach swimming and sometimes just hanging out. They would clown around, collect sea shells, fish for groupers, watch the sunsets or simply enjoy the fresh ocean air. Burnt fish or sometimes marshmallows was a common smell everyday when the sun head south. Pollution was not a real problem back then as there were hardly any factories in our small town and so the water was considered to be crystal clean. Due to the lack of human interference with the environment, I even heard some of my friends were able to swim with the dolphins given the cleanliness of the water.
I was only 5 years old and my mom told me a real life story of her own about one of her childhood neighborhood friends. She was her neighbor and classmate. They spent a lot time everday together whether it was walking to school, playing together during recess, walking home after school or even copying each other's homework at night. They were like sisters and inseparable. They traded shirts to wear and call each other's mom, Mama! Every year, during the month of May, as a tradition they would celebrate the dragon boat festival. That year was no different. Several of the neighborhood familes got together and headed out to the beach for a fun filled time of good memories.
A short 10 minutes walk later, they arrived at the beach. The beach was already filled with people fighting for good spots. The boats and all the grills were all out in force. At the backdrop, you could hear the ocean waves followed by crackling thundering fireworks. The dragon boats are all out on the vast ocean ready for their traditional race across the horizon. The real festivities started as nightfall approaches. Family members would gather together and as the sun set, there would even be a countdown to usher the moon to rise signaling the real festivities to start. At the very moment the sun set completly into the horizon, the glowing dim sky was suddenly painted by colorful fireworks. The sky would be so filled with fireworks that you wouldn't even tell the difference between the stars or fireworks. On this beautiful night, my mom's childhood friend never came back after a swim in the ocean. She drown tragically and without reasons. Her body was never recovered and some said her leg might have got caught by a boat's motor and as the boat started so did her body begin to disintegrate by the motor blades. It was a complete shock to have this happen on such a festive day. The little beach was even close down for a whole month hoping the rescuers to recover at least her body. They never did.
My little 5 year old mind was biologically set or program after this story. I didn't set foot close to any bodies of water until I became an adult. As for my little son, he's got another set of fears. He started out with water, height, gross things like his own poop in his bathwater and fireworks. He used to freak out if he had an accident of the big one while taking a bath in the bathtub. He would cry and scream hysterically. It's funny for us adults to witness but for him, his heart was beating so hard that it seem ready to jump out of his body at any time. Another similar experience we had was when we took him out to see fireworks during his second July 4th. He didn't seem to mind at first but once those booming sound started making its way in to his ear drums, he began to react as if a bomb is about to go off. He would struggle for his life and beg us to take him away. Earlier in the year while still in Asia, we celebrated the new year and grandpa didn't know this fear of his little grandson. He thought it will be great to take his cute little adorable grandson out to see the fireworks.
The little grandson didn't know any better and followed along. Right when the fireworks exploded in to the sky, so did our little guy. Grandpa didn't know what to do and had no choice but to take him home immediately. Later on, I had a little conversation with him and asked him why is he afraid of fireworks. Other kids simply embrace the colorful sparklings across the litted sky. He didn't really give me a reason besides the obvious of it being loud. The month of June approaches, out of no where, he came to tell me that daddy,
"once I turn 5, I will not be scared of fireworks". I told him, that's great! but why 5 years old? He said 5 years old means I am grown up and I won't be afraid anymore. O..also daddy, don't forget my birthday is in August and it's after July 4th. He is a sneaky little guy and would do anything to avoid seeing fireworks.
Just like anything, my fear of water had a reason and that reason was my mother's childhood story. For my son, the fear of firework was a puzzling one until we discovered a drawing that he made a while back. The drawing was a village of people running away from things that was falling from the sky. It looked like a village being bomb and people were running for their lives. Somehow he may caught some images in this rich media world and transcended it to fear. Well, I guess we have to wait to see whether if his fear will go away once he turns 5 or 18 like I did.