The Big Ooh

Lately, every night it’s the same thing:

Mommy, close the door,” Jack whines, “So the monsters can’t get in.”

I don’t know where this new fear has come from.  I can’t put my finger on exactly when it started, or what it is that sparked it. All I know is that now it has become routine to make a show of closing the door securely so that Jack feels secure enough to relax into sleep.

I was lying in my own bed, watching the shadows of the passing cars drift across the ceiling, contemplating Jack’s new fear and whether or not it was worth being concerned about, when in a flash,

I recalled The Big Ooh.

I can still see Zeke laying in our bed, his little hands clutching the blanket tightly, where it was tucked beneath his chin, eyes wide and staring.

Mommy,” he would say, in a whisper. “I saw The Big Ooh again.”

We live in a building that is right off of Flatbush Avenue, a busy street in Brooklyn, where it is never truly dark or  completely quiet.  Aaron’s bicycle hangs on a hook near the ceiling and and as the cars rush endlessly by, headlights shine over handlebars and through the spokes of the wheel, creating patterns of light and shadow, which ebb and flow endlessly past.

Zeke watched the shadowy shapes roll across the ceiling night after night, and to him they became something alive:

The Big Ooh.

He was vague on the details of The Big Ooh.  He seemed less frightened by her than intrigued.  He told us that she had red eyes and that he only saw her at night because during the day she was busy “taking care of her children”.

And, with a jolt, I remembered something else too.

When I was a little girl, there were these “people” that lived under my bed.  I wasn’t exactly afraid of them, but I was always very aware of their presence and that awareness made me a little uneasy.  I’m not sure if I ever mentioned them to anyone, but I have very vivid memories of lying awake in bed thinking about them and being almost paralyzed by my profound awareness of their presence. I remember taking deep breaths and resolving to be brave enough to hang my head over the side of my bed and peek down at them.  It would take me a while to summon the courage, and my glances were always brief and breathless.

 They would lie with their backs to me, their stomachs on the floor, heads propped up on their elbows.   They were fuzzy and gray; shadowy. They looked as if they were made of fog and hairballs and dust.  And I knew they were under there, but I also knew that they would never come out.

My memory of them is as vague as their lazy silhouettes were, but they remain one of the oddest and most exhilarating memories that I have, because my rational adult mind tells me that they couldn’t possibly have been under there. But I still remember them.

I saw them.

And I never had an “Aha” moment where I realized that my overactive imagination was spinning dust bunnies or lost socks into mysterious lethargic beings.  Their presence was never explained away, and I can still remember the way they looked, the way I saw them as a child.

I have since asked Zeke about The Big Ooh and he has no memory of her at all.  I suppose that whatever Jack imagines is lurking behind the door will fade away too.

And as they grow and their childhood fears disappear, so too will the world where magic is possible.  Danger will be all too unavoidably real and even a door that is firmly shut will not make them feel safe.

As their mom, I desperately want to protect them from any and all danger, and to keep them safe within my tight and reassuring grasp.  

But there is a part of me that wants them to hold on to the indistinct creatures of the night, somewhere deep inside, even if they can’t really believe in them anymore.

To remember that once, you believed.

That is a gift.

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6 responses

  1. Sean

    Welcome back from your hiatus! Great story and beautiful artwork!! ❤ uncle sean

    March 5, 2012 at 1:38 am

    • mamadestroy

      Thanks Uncle Sean! Good to be back!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm

  2. Loved this – I remember being terrified by monsters at night – now kinda miss them! We had our kids watch Monsters inc. as soon as they were old enough just so they wouldn’t be terrified of their own whilst they still went through that stage. There’s no need for them to grow out of it as far as I’m concerned 🙂

    March 5, 2012 at 3:55 am

    • mamadestroy

      Monsters Inc, huh? We do movie nights on Friday, and, much as I adore THE Trilogy, I can get tired of watching Star Wars. New suggestions are always welcome. Both my boys have such active imaginations– I feel like Zeke might actually exist in an alternate universe much of the time– that their fears truly do take on a deep dimension. It is actually a privilige to get ot live vicariously through their experience of the world, which has not yet been limited by experience to a set “reality”. Even when it’s terrifying!
      Thanks so much for reading!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm

  3. really enjoyed this – it reminded me of when my kids were little. I love the illustration as well. Its funny though because my 16 year old son still insists that the closet doors must be closed before going to bed 🙂

    Cheers!

    March 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    • mamadestroy

      My sister Molly does amazing illustrations for each of our blog entries. I feel very lucky to have her as a collaborator. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      March 19, 2012 at 1:21 pm

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