This morning I got this cheery PR pitch in my email inbox:
and I was at that moment very glad that my four-year-old daughter was not looking over my shoulder; if she had been, her bloodcurdling scream would most likely have punctured my eardrum.
Every child has that one thing of which they are irrationally and totally terrified. Growing up, my little brother was so afraid of Don Music from Sesame Street that he’d have to hide behind the couch whenever he saw Kermit the Frog come out in his trench coat.
My brother couldn’t sleep at night for visions of Don Music banging his head on the piano.
My oldest child, Connor, had twin demons which haunted him as a wee lad:
…the “Ababa No-Man,” aka “Bumble,” from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer…
…and the Grumpy Old Troll from Dora the Explorer, an incubus so terrifying that 3-year-old Connor could never watch Dora at all, lest the Troll suddenly appear and demand viewers solve one of his cranky riddles.
For four-year-old Maggie, the terrifying summation of every evil her subconscious has yet to process is the Furby– an old-school Furby which I received in 1998 as a Christmas present from the lovely and generous Rhea Perlman.
I was doing a play with Rhea in December 1998, and that year, the Furby Madness was at its peak. She procured one for each of her six fellow cast members, at what I’m sure was an outrageous black-market price. Once the play was over, along with my Furby fascination, I stuck it in a cabinet– until Seamus’s 5th birthday, almost three years ago. Seamus was deep into his stuffed animal phase at the time, and when I came across my dusty Furby I changed its batteries, discovered with delight that it worked just fine, and presented it on Seamus’s birthday, certain he would love it.
He did. His 18-month-old sister did not.
“WEE HOW!” the Furby yelled, eyes alight. “FAA DEE POH!” Maggie started to scream, right there with the presents and the birthday cake, and would not be comforted until the Furby was taken far, far out of sight. As in, stuffed in a shopping bag and stuck on a shelf.
That day almost three years ago should have been the end of Maggie’s Furby Terror, save for one important factor:
The Furby has no off switch.
I’m not talking about the all-new Furby; I cannot speak to its magic. But the old-school Furby has no off switch, cause see, it’s not a toy! It’s real!
And so the only way to get it to stop chattering is to cover its eyes until it sings a lullaby to itself and begins to snore. Then you quickly stick it in a cabinet or something, somewhere nice and dark. This works very well until someone opens said cabinet, and Furby jerks his eyes open with a sixty-decibel “HEE! HIIII! LIIIIKKKE!”
Maggie: scream. run from room.
Seamus: Oh yeah! My Furby! I love him!
Repeat ad nauseam.
Maggie has actually gotten more terrified of Furby with each passing year. It got so bad this summer that she couldn’t enter any room unaccompanied lest Furby bellow her a sudden and cheery “LOBA! TOOKY!” “It’s his voice, Mommy,” she tells me, visibly shaking, when I point out for the umpteenth time that the Furby is immobile. “His squeaky voice.”
And so Maggie and I made a secret plan: we put Furby in a cardboard box. We taped it shut (she watched, I did the dirty work). I hid Furby in a seldom-used closet. “If Seamus doesn’t ask for Furby in the next two weeks,” I told her, “Furby will go in the garbage. And we won’t tell. And we will never, ever, ever see Furby again.” She nodded, eyes teary, biting her lip.
Those two weeks are nearly up. Now, today, news that FURBY is BACK. This time, its eyes (see above) are pixilated and truly weird-looking. This time, it has FEET that MOVE (just from side to side, but still). And he’s just as perky as ever: “Furby’s really hyper,” one child explains warily, on their promotional video. This time, Furby has a PR firm. He’ll be everywhere. He’ll be unstoppable.
Here’s hoping he has an off switch this time.
What is/was your child irrationally and completely afraid of?