Childhood Chills and Clawfoot Tubs

Childhood Chills and Clawfoot Tubs

I prodded my daughter for childhood fears, expecting giggles and vague “monsters under the bed” answers. She surprised me with a dramatic eye roll and a tight-lipped, “Oh, lots of things!”

Intrigued, I pressed for details. Houses, rooms, noises? Her eyes widened, and I could almost see the movie reel of her spooky past flickering behind them.

First on the list? The guest bathroom’s clawfoot tub. Not just her, she insisted, but all her friends found it creepy. Holding it in until their own homes was apparently preferable to facing that antique menace.

I confess, the tub didn’t strike me as frightening. Sure, it was old and small, maybe even impractical with its side-spraying tendencies. But scary? I urged her to explain.

“Those weird bird feet!” she exclaimed. “Why would a tub have feet? And when the shower curtain closed, we felt like something would jump out!”

I chuckled, sharing my own childhood anxieties. Bills, health, my daughter’s future – those were my monsters now, far scarier than anything lurking in a shadowy room.

“What scared you?” she countered, eyes full of curiosity.

My childhood home, I explained, was a museum of dust-laden antiques. The living room, with its locked glass cabinets, stiff Victorian furniture, and carved oddities, was off-limits to playful hands. But tours with friends were allowed, filled with stares into those cabinets, each bizarre item fueling our imaginations.

There was the shrunken head from Brazil, forever mistaken for our grumpy sixth-grade teacher. Egyptian scarabs we swore held King Tut’s ashes. Angry-faced statues, remnants of past trips to Alaska, seemed to judge our every move. And those giant amber beads, traded for packs of gum in Africa, sat in a dusty pile, catching the late afternoon sun and casting eerie shadows that would haunt me well into the night.

But the pièce de résistance, my childhood “Clawfoot Tub,” was the antique lion rug dominating the living room floor.

Lion Rug That Bites

Hated by me and Dad, adored by Mom, it had yellow glass eyes and mangy-looking spots. It stared into the house, welcoming guests not with a wagging tail but with a gaping, fanged maw.

I avoided the living room, unable to shake the feeling the lion watched me. Then came the night screams. My mother, soaked in blood, with my dad desperately tending to her foot.

She’d stepped in the lion’s mouth, a tooth piercing her skin. The odds of such a feat were mind-boggling, validating my deepest fears – the ancient beast had tasted blood!

After a hospital visit and weeks of healing, the lion was banished to storage.

Fast forward twenty years, I’m helping Mom declutter that very unit. A crusty cardboard box with no label catches my eye. I pry it open, and there it is, staring back with dull, harmless eyes.

My nemesis was back, but the terror was gone. His once-menacing grin now resembled a carousel horse’s, his fur faded and patchy. Even the shrunken head, which I expected to leap from the next box, seemed less frightening.

A strange sadness settled over me. Maybe facing childhood fears isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Part of being a kid is letting your imagination run wild, even if it paints monsters where none exist.

But as I cautiously unpacked more boxes, I couldn’t help but wonder what adventures, real or imagined, awaited within them.