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Adams: Battle of the imagination

Posted: November 1, 2017 - 1:07am

Twenty years ago, my younger brother started his freshman year of college at UGA. Now, whenever he occupies a public place with my mother and a cooperative audience, he laments that my parents didn't drop him off at college. They didn't even help him pack his bags or tearfully wave goodbye as they watched his car disappear down the driveway. If they gazed down the driveway at all, it was to make sure he closed the gate behind himself.

My parents didn't drop me or my older brother or my sister off at college, either. I guess they figured that if we were old enough to leave home, we were old enough to go on our own.

They knew, I suppose, that their presence would only prolong the inevitable fate of being alone in a sea of uncertainty. Whatever a person dreads is usually worse than what the person actually encounters. Delaying the encounter does no good. Our parents began prepping us for leaving home when we were quite young by sending us alone into the haunted houses that lined the midways of fall fairs. Mesmerized by the macabre scenes painted on the exteriors of the haunted houses, we begged to enter. We went in without parents or parental fanfare. We exited running and crying but alive and intact and eager to go in again after catching our breath and eating a second round of cotton candy.

Winning the battle of the imagination - worst fears, what ifs, wild and rambling thoughts - prepares a person to face the perils pervasive to reality. This early experience toughened us. Because of it, independently facing the unknowns of college hardly nicked our confidence.

When my daughter showed me the website for Scare House of the South in Soperton, it met my imagination at the sweet spot. The site's list of don'ts parallels many of the don'ts of college, and in some cases the don'ts are the same: Don't be emotionally unstable; Don't be pregnant; Don't have heart or lung issues; Don't complain about the show/scenes being too graphic or scary or gory ... we don't care; Don't wear open-toed shoes; Don't wear jewelry; Don't wear new or nice clothes - they may might get wet or possibly a bit dirty; Don't get drunk and come here and fall down a set of stairs; Don't come here and claim a wall jumped out and chipped your already blowed-out teeth; Don't walk/run through our show with your eyes closed and then claim you didn't get scared; Don't pop a bunch of pills and attempt to get naked and dance in line ... unless you're hot; Don't threaten to sue us for $23 because you crapped your pants and want us to buy you new ones.

It's a succinct yet compelling message. Like the grotesque images adorning the county fair haunted houses from yore, it took control of my attention. I know that whatever I expect is generally worse than what I experience, but I want to go see people with "blowed-out teeth" running into walls. Plus, the Scare House folks provide a unique community service to aid people, who didn't have parents like mine, win the battle of the imagination - worst fears, what ifs, wild and rambling thoughts - so they can bravely face the perils pervasive to reality ... and haunted houses. Haunted houses ... and reality.

My younger brother imagines himself somehow slighted, since my mother didn't travel all the way to Athens with him to make his dorm-room bed when he was a man of 18. I think my mother would agree that a jaunt through Scare House would do my brother a heap of good.

(Lucy Adams is the author of "Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run." She lives in Thomson, Ga. Email Lucy at lucyadams.writer@gmail.com.)

 

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