Fear of Bears and Attics

When I was a young girl, there were five children and two adults living in a two-bedroom one and a half story home. The upstairs had been converted into another bedroom, and it was where the girls slept. Until I was five, I slept in a crib in my parents bedroom. I have vague memories of this (nothing traumatic – lol). But of course, my parents knew I would be moving upstairs before I started kindergarten.

The move was pretty scary for me. I really wanted to sleep in my brothers’ bedroom, but it was a very small room, with bunkbeds. My twin brother and I figured we could sleep head to toe in his bed, but my mom would have nothing to do with that.

While I was excited to share the space with my sisters, they were much older than me. One sister being 15 and the other 17. I don’t think they were looking forward to sharing a space with a younger sibling either.

Because of their age, I usually went to bed much earlier than they did. That meant that I was alone in the attic bedroom. Climbing those stairs was always a scary event for me, and by this time I had been having very consistent dreams of being chased by bears. I imagined there were bears upstairs in my bedroom, since I was aware of shadows and the feeling of not being alone.

So each night, as I climbed those lonely stairs, I would get to the top of the stairs and look right and then left. In a one and a half story home, it is not uncommon to have both sides of the space attic storage, while the main room is between them (without the sloped ceilings). Not seeing any bears, I know I could go further into the space. The attic doors were always closed, with a nice little latch that reminded me you could get inside and be trapped if someone shut the door on you. (Yes, it happened a time or two in our house.) I would look at the latch to make sure it was secure. I also checked out a small back closet. One can never be sure where bears might lurk when they are hiding on you. There was a large closet in the hallway, and I always needed to slide that door open before moving further into the bedroom.

Once my nightly inspection was completed, I would promptly jump into my bed and hide under the covers until I fell asleep or one of the sisters came upstairs. But I knew that I could never REALLY rest well. There could still be bears lurking in the attic.

It took me a couple years before I gathered the courage to add peeking into the attics to my nightly routine. By this time, the older sister had moved out, and the other sister was soon heading off to college. I knew I had to face this last fear, since they would no longer be there to keep me safe at night.

One of the attics is scarier than the other. The less scary attic had familiar items that we used more frequently, like the Christmas tree and ornaments, suitcases, and, my favorite item: a Barbie Dream House that my sisters had growing up. Upon that discovery, the house came out of the attic and was a permanent source of entertainment for me.

The other attic was much more scary for me though. Mom didn’t go into it as often. It contained old papers and pictures. It had the top from their wedding cake in there, as well as some very fragile hollowed out eggs that my mom had painstakingly painted as a young woman. (I later learned, when I was comfortable with the attics and curious about their contents, that there was a Barbie convertible in the second closet. How dare they keep that from me! I was nearly too old to play with Barbies when I made that discovery!)

Fear is a funny thing. It prevents us from finding treasures, often times treasures within ourselves. It limits our world and experiences in this world. How often do we say, “I can’t do ( ¬†)” because of our fear?

I still have an interesting fear of bears. I understand my feelings more, but every time I go into a woods, I have a healthy respect that I am not the biggest animal in the woods, and I make sure to talk loud and make noise. However, I have gotten over my fear of attics. I am now curiously drawn to those old hiding spaces, looking for a new discovery. Who knows, maybe there is a Ken doll hiding in the attic as well? One never knows until we search and explore…

We can examine our fears and see if we are led to any conclusions about ourselves. That is, of course, unless our fear is examining ourselves… ah, another topic for another day…

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