When I was two-and-a-half my parents took me to The Cincinnati, Ohio Saint Patrick’s Day parade. I don’t remember much about the event. I can’t recall if there were floats or marching bands or step dancers. What I do remember is that we stood next to a giant cannon and that at some point during the parade this mystical machine erupted with an enormous boom. It was so loud it literally rocked my world. Ever since I have credited this incident as the reason for my fear of loud noises. “No I can’t play hide and seek,” I’d say, “I get too freaked out when someone shouts ‘boo’ around me. When I was little a cannon went off in my face and I’m still recovering. Has a cannon ever gone off in your face? Well then I don’t expect you to understand.”

Just imagine childhood with no hide and seek.

That damn parade really fucked me up.

I was bound and determined not to subject my daughter to any cannons. My kid was going to have a healthy relationship to sound, god damn it! I decided right of the bat – no heavy artillery for her until she’s at least twelve. No fireworks either, it’s too risky! When The Fourth of July rolls around I schedule a trip to the least patriotic town. And that’s not all, every time I operate a blender I dance to it like it’s music “Yay, noise!” I shout as I shimmy my shoulders; when we get startled by a truck horn or a car with a crappy muffler, I say, “What a cool noise.”

I will not transfer my trauma onto my offspring.

But despite my efforts, this past weekend I went and provided her with a fear to call her own. We were visiting my folks and we happened upon a photo booth. It looked wonderfully kitschy and welcoming and reminded me so much being in seventh grade that I just had to go in. I convinced my sister to join me, we swooped up the kid and within seconds we were hurriedly shoving dollar bills into the machine with a giddy laugh. Usually when I introduce my daughter to something new, something like a photo booth, I tell her what to expect. We talk about how exciting it will be. Sometimes I even act it out or make up a little song about how it will be such a great adventure. Certainly had I stopped for one minute to think about the fact that I was leading my kid into a dark room where she’d be repeatedly startled by a flash bulb while her mother and Aunt made funny faces behind her, I would have prepped her for the event, but for some reason, I forgot.

I just slipped.

As soon as we closed the curtain I knew I had made a mistake. I should have jumped out right then but everything started happening so quickly. The flashes were going off. Sage was crying. I was trying to think of four unique funny faces to make so that each picture would look different. It was just a mess. When the chaos finally ended Sage was screaming “No more scary movie booth.” It’s like I had lured her into the theatre with the promise of popcorn and then made her watch a horror flick. Granted the experience was only five seconds long, but that was long enough.

As soon as the pictures fell from the slot I knew that she had been traumatized. The strip of tiny photos documented the progression of her fear – in the first she is staring at the camera like she’s about to get attacked by a Velociraptor; it’s a combination of grave concern, awe, and utter confusion. In the next picture she is covering her eyes, in the third she is holding her doll in front of her face and in the fourth you can barely make out the top of her head as tries to escape from the booth.

Looking at the pictures I felt absolutely terrible. How could I make such a goof. I immediately started my campaign to de-terrorize her. First I talked through the events, honored her fears, told her I was sorry. Then I explained that we would take our own pictures at home, we’d practice making funny faces, so someday she could go back, when she’s ready of course, and “show that booth who’s boss.” But no matter how I attempted to rectify the situation I could not keep my mind from spinning great tales of worry. “Now Sage is going to be afraid of bright lights, which will mean she will never be able to live in a big city or play flashlight tag or stand around a bonfire with friends.” And the more I worried the more I felt like a shitty, shitty mom. How could I, someone who had her ears traumatized at such a young age, go and traumatize my two-year-old’s eyes. It’s just inexcusable.

I guess to continue the chain of fear, my daughter will have to give birth to child who has a traumatic experience with spicy food. Then when we all get together I’ll cover my ears, Sage will cover her eyes and her kid will cover his mouth. We’ll be like those “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkeys. Maybe we can go on the road, start a freak show and sell funny t-shirts of the ridiculous scene. And maybe, just maybe, if we’re really lucky (fingers crossed), we’ll make so much money off merchandising we’ll all be able to go into therapy to deal with our traumas.

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