I have two traumas to confess, both of which I suppose speak to the sheer volume of time I spent as a child with my head in a book to the exclusion of any and all other activities. When I was in the first or second grade a classmate whom I can no longer remember brought a picture book (The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups) to school that left me quaking in terror for days. It purported to be a book of secrets that are kept from children by a secret cabal of adults, to be revealed only to those that have turned thirteen. Being a child with the rare gift of being completely unable to understand humor, I saw no indication that this was anything but one hundred percent factual.
Among the claims in that book that I found particularly disturbing were: vegetables evolved from giant man-eating monsters and we must eat them in order to prevent them from reverting back to that state, we must drink milk in order to keep atomic cows from exploding, and worst of all, that if you blow bubbles in a glass of milk your face can get sucked into the glass and left permanently deformed. I remember that after I returned home from school that day utterly traumatized, my mother decided it was a good time to show me the classic movie “E.T.” and was baffled when I did not enjoy it because I was preoccupied with horrific thoughts of suck-face. My memories of that book are so bizarre that after many years I began to wonder if I hadn’t just imagined it all. But last summer, while volunteering at my local library, I stumbled across it in the humor section.
A couple years after this incident, when I was 8, I was at my grandmother’s house, where there is a very strange little room created by an odd angle in the roof, known as the Book Nook. In this Book Nook I found a book called “Strange Creatures From Time and Space“, which had apparently belonged to my dad or one of his brothers when they were children. (My dad said he had no memory of it.) It was all about Bigfoot, giants, sea monsters, and other unexplained phenomena. Later I found out that it was written by JOHN A. KEEL of Mothman Prophecies fame, and the cover illustration was by Frank Frazetta, but at that young age I hadn’t heard of either of them yet.
In any case I could not put the book down, even though it soon terrified me. The more frightened I became, the more I wanted to read it. I read it nonstop on the way back, which involved a drive across most of Texas as well as a plane flight. The whole way I imagined Bigfoot keeping pace with our car from behind the treeline. In the airport I saw a very tall man whom I became convinced was a giant from Patagonia like I had read about in the book. The whole thing came to a head about a week later, when I came home from a piano lesson in tears and begged my dad to take the book away and never let me see it again. He agreed, but thankfully he didn’t actually throw it away, for I found it again almost ten years later and still have it today!