Monday, July 28, 2014

The Distant Hum Of My Childhood Fear

IMAGE : MORGUEFILE.COM | The Distant Hum Of My Childhood Fear

I remember when I was a little girl, I developed a crippling fear of the sound of aeroplanes flying overhead.

Admittedly, I was a bit of a sensitive, worrisome kid so it's no great surprise that I found something else to be afraid of, but nonetheless, the distant hum of an aircraft thousands of feet above me terrified me to the core until its sound had faded far into the distance. (I know - totally weird, but it's not really kosher to judge a six year old so stay with me....).

When I think back to this fear, a certain memory provides a perfect, clear definition of how I felt. I remember very vividly walking the picturesque dirt roads of our coastal home hand in hand with my beloved grandfather. I was probably six or seven years old and we strolled chatting just as the sun was setting and the half light of dusk was falling over us like a soft sheet. My grandfather was just about my favourite person in the world. At well over six feet tall, he towered over me and his enormous warm hands were always there to protect me from a fall or to scoop me up into an enormous bear hug. On this day, as the light faded, I still remember hearing the faint sound of an approaching plane. It was likely to have been a light plane delivering mail across the Tasman; not exactly a huge threat to humanity but nonetheless I remember being gripped with fear as it flew over us. I tucked right up under the wing of my grandfather as we continued to walk and I prayed like mad that this wasn't the plane that was due to deliver the much-discussed nuclear bomb sent to wipe us all out. 

In the late 1970s, the nuclear threat between the U.S. and Russia was a long standing, well-exposed conflict that hovered over the world like Damocles' sword. If I think about it, we're probably so much more conditioned and indifferent to the horrors of humanity now; much more than we were back then. We watch the conflicts in Syria, Sudan and Gaza and we simply shake our heads numbly, but back when I was young the tension and threat of a nuclear attack felt very real and scary, especially to a kid like me who was born to worry and fret.

Back then, we didn't really need to grapple too much with the ideology of terrorism; not like we do these days. The unrest in Northern Ireland was about as horrific as terrorism could get and of course that conflict showed no possibility of hitting our shores anytime in the future, which thankfully was true. In the 1970s, despite the absence of what we define as 'terrorism' so flippantly today, I began to worry. I began to dream of mushroom clouds and survival plans. I thought a lot about our animals and where they would go and if we would feel the end should a nuclear bomb hit our shores. Just how far away would one have to be to avoid the effects? Or would the entire world be wiped out by one bomb? It goes without saying, that's a lot to take in as a six year old and I wonder if our current worrisome six year olds grapple with other, equally as disturbing fears thanks to the many varied horrors that infect our world currently?

I suspect they do but perhaps like us they've become a little numb too? I choose not to test the theory - we don't watch the nightly news like we did in my house growing up (thank goodness for the internet) as there are just too many confronting horror stories to attract the innocent eyes and ears of our inquisitive, ever-questioning children. I guess by sheltering them somewhat from the dark side of humanity, I'm trying to avoid my kids experiencing the same unnecessary, unchangeable fears that haunted me when I was young. Life is hard enough and I suspect it's generally harder and more complex for kids now than it was thirty five years ago. Let's face it - no one really needs to lug around an exaggerated fear of attack if they don't have to!

Clearly, I grew out of my fear of aircraft over time; thankfully by the late 1980s the threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia had diminished significantly and I suppose I began to either see the insanity of my fear, or I simply found something else to worry about. (I suspect it was the latter).

1 comment :

  1. Interesting as a child in the 70's I can not remember this threat. Maybe we were shielded from it and I don't think we had a TV (or at least a colour Tv) till was 8 . I can only remember the images of starving , skeletal children and my father weeping for them.