Putting the Boo in Bamboo


Tree Fear. I was reminded of this dark, chlorophyllic time in Kiddom by a recent post of Kathy, over at the Junk Drawer.

It seems her sunflowers are stalking her, growing unnaturally large entirely too quickly, in their unholy mission to... I don't know... peer in her windows and watch her funk dancing to Nelly.

And suddenly, the image of these sunflowers—waiting... lurking... drooling dry-roasted seeds, even—it took me back to my own leafy, yet funk-free, toddler terror: the slathering, vegetative monster I'd dubbed, "Bamboo."

See, somehow, at about age four, I'd been allowed to watch the horror film Day of the Triffids. (Yes, I know, I know... but it was the 70s. Nobody worried about kid trauma in the 70s. We also ate lead paint chips and rode in the front seat on our mom's lap unseatbelted while juggling knives. You lose little Timmy to a tragic riding-while-knife-juggling accident? Just make sure you have a spare kid, no big deal. Things are different today.)

Anyway, Day of the Triffids is a 60s monster flick where alien spores from a meteor shower grow into man-eating trees, which uproot themselves for some Human Slurpee take-out.

And while modern viewers might see the film as a metaphor for the Red Scare and yadda-yadda-yadda... what my teeny tot brain got out of the film was that our nation's friendly forests actually had an insidious plan. To lure us in with shade, and nuts, and something nifty to climb...

Then drain us like K-Mart ICEE machines.

From this, you can probably tell my contact with Actual Nature was not exactly often. I mean, I was from north-central New Jersey. Aside from the potted plants at the mall, Actual Nature only came in any sort of bulk on the annual camping trip to Cape May...

The place where my Tree Fear branched out.

I look now at the campground's web site and feel an ironic chuckle bubble up:

Our wooded park will provide you with the pleasures of the forest, yet you're only minutes away from the beaches and oceans that have made our area famous.

Yeah, pleasure of the forest, all right. Like the grasping tree branches tap, tap, tapping on the roof of the Dodge Family Wagon, where I lay in the overhead bunk bed. Just an inch of fiberglass between me and being sycamore-slurped.

So I named my foliagey fear "Bamboo." To little kid ears, it had all the sound-effects of terror wrapped into its very word. "Bam!": it sneaks up and gets you. "Boo!": well, y'know... just "boo." To a little kid brain, "Boo" gave it the extra edge.

I did not know from gently swaying Japanese garden plants and Zen.

Anyway, my poor parents learned the hard way of my fear of this carnivorous deciduous. During our first thunderstorm at the campgrounds, as coastal winds began to whip, rattle and twist the objects of my concerns, I made my neurosis known with a certain amount of... um... flair.

"Bamboo's comin'... Bamboo's comin'..." I uttered, whimpering and rocking-- probably not wholly unlike the token creepy child in any horror flick of the era.

It was good I was keeping up with the trends.

The parents, well, they finally got out of me what the issue was though a series of 20-questions, followed by some blame tossing about who left Day of the Triffids on...

And then they stacked "Bamboo" into my Fear Pile along with:
  • "Concerns I will slip through the cracks of the boardwalk and drown in the ocean below"
  • "Concerns I will go down the drain with the bathwater"
  • "Concerns I will be eaten by the skeletons on the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride"
  • And mayonnaise.

I'm okay on the first three these days.

But, alas, mayo. (shudder) Give me a man-eating tree any day!

So tell me-- do you recall being afraid of something in particular as a kid? Or do your kids have a fear that simply makes you scratch your head?

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17 comments:

Nooter said...

yeah, saw that movie when i was a pup which is why i now pee on every tree i come across. every one.
stupid trees.

Chris said...

The trees that freaked me out were the ones in The Wizard of Oz. Between those and the friggin' flying monkeys, its a wonder a whole generation wasn't scarred for life.

And yeah, "Bamboo" does have sort of an evil, voodooish ring to it, doesn't it?

Jenn Thorson said...

Nooter- Good dog, Goooood dog! Thanks for doing for us what needs to be done. :)

Chris- Ah, yes-- the Wizard of Oz trees didn't scare me like those darned Winged Monkeys did. Who would imagine a small person in a monkey suit could scare the crap out of kids successfully for over 50 years?

Melanie said...

The whole Wizard of Oz movie scared the crap out of me as a youngster. Probably didn't watch it in its entirety until I was a teenager.

Jenn Thorson said...

Melanie- I suspect you're not alone in that! I remember watching the projected head of the "Great and Terrible Oz" through my fingers each time. :)

ReformingGeek said...

Yes, some trees are possessed. They can take over your mind. An evil one forced me to climb it when I was a wee thing and then it wouldn't let me down. Sheesh!

My neighbor has bamboo. I wish I could burn it down.

Da Old Man said...

I sort of had a fear of my local church. It had all the scary parts like pillars with dedications to dead people, and these stained glass windows that scared the crap out of me.
The scenes were weird enough, like the saint with her eyeballs in a dish *shudder*, Satan getting his ass kicked by St Mike, and others, but they really upped the ante by dedicating the windows to various folks whose family wanted them remembered. Yeah, nothing like a stained glass image of a snarling 1850's Italian couple sneering at a kid to totally creep him out.

Jenn Thorson said...

Reforming Geek- So you were treed like a cat? Poor thing! How did you eventually get down?... or are you typing right now from a laptop on wireless in the tree? :)

Da Old Man- Wow, yes, that would have been a whole new ecclesiastical level of creepy for a kid. LOVE the eyeballs in a dish, very... decorative.

Kathy said...

"And mayonnaise." That still kills me.

I remember one time my older brother told me to stick my hand down a hole in a floor board and see if there was a mouse down there. He thought he heard some scratching around.

Of course I did as instructed, felt something grab my hand, and have never forgotten the feeling of sheer terror. Why would my brother tell me to do that?? More importantly, why would I do it?

Jenn Thorson said...

Kathy- Oh, when you're a kid you'll do virtually whatever anyone tells you, even if it's stupid.

But here's the BIG question, Kathy-- WHAT THE HELL GRABBED YOUR HAND???!!!

That would have done me in for, oh, forever. Was it the mouse? Was it another brother below playing the Worst Prank Ever??

Kathy said...

I think it was a prank because of the way he coaxed me into doing it with such determination. I think I was about five at the time. Yep, 35 years later and I can still remember scraping my hand as I yanked it out of the hole with such force and speed.

Anna Lefler said...

I'm tellin' ya - nature is freakin' SCARY!

Watch your bark. I mean back.

XO

Anna

Jenn Thorson said...

Kathy- I hope you got some revenge eventually for this. That boy needed a sibling smackdown, I think.

Anna- Heh, yes, well, after your Lawn Ornament Extravaganza, I can see where you might be frightened. :)

Shieldmaiden96 said...

Oh, why didn't I give you my machete and let you go to town on the bamboo in my backyard? It would have been cathartic. Well, sort of. It was only five inches high when you were here.

I was never afraid of trees except during those long night walks to the bathroom in campgrounds as a kid. The darkness. The crunching of Ben Franklin shoe bin flip flops on gravel, feeble circle of light penetrating the dark ahead. The buzzing, unnatural light with critters flailing against it. I swear my dad got some kind of discount for taking the lot furthest from the bath house.

Skye said...

The only thing I was ever scared of as a kid was my older brother. I swear he's tried to kill me several times! When I was 3 months old he tried to bash my head in with a toy truck, still have the scars from that. At around 5 or so we were climbing trees, he told me to take his hand and he'd help me up to the next branch. No he didn't, he let go and I fell! Then, when I was 15 he was driving me to school in dad's truck and he crashed it. I went flying out of the rear window. There's more that he's done and all-in-all he's given me 5 concussions that I'm aware of. Should I still be scared of him?

Lisa (Jonny's Mommy) said...

I'm picturing Kathy getting her funk on to Nelly. Oh too dang funny!

Jenn Thorson said...

Shieldmaiden- Is there a brand of machete you recommend? :) PS- your description of walking through the campground at night as a kid is PERFECT-- it brought such visions of Cape May. That's hysterical!

Skye- Yes-- I think some fears are not only justified-- they should continue. They are why you're alive today. :)

Lisa- Supposedly she is, indeed, a funk machine. If you check out that post, she gives instructions on how to properly groove.

I should have asked her to demonstrate when we were visiting you all in May. :)