Be Not Afraid 

When you're scared of something, it helps to singalong.

It was a Thursday when it started. I'm sure of it because "The Waltons" was supposed to have come on TV at 8 p.m. On this particular night, as I recall, a National Geographic special aired in its place. It happened to feature three phenomena: the Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman and Bigfoot.

Curious, I watched the program with my dad. But long after "Laugh In" and "Flip Wilson" and the news, I lay awake in bed. I couldn't bear to close my eyes. At some point I must have. Still, a weird feeling was awakened in me. And that feeling made it a habit to return. I never spoke of it to my parents then, because I was fearless. I was the oldest child, the only girl.

What would my sissy brothers think if they found out that I was afraid of Bigfoot?

So I kept quiet. Lucky for me, they never asked why when I climbed in their beds, frightened to be alone.

My family moved to another house, this one bigger and deeper in the woods. By now I was too old, I figured, to be afraid of monsters. Most didn't bother me. Take Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. As far as anyone knew, she was harmless, hadn't hurt a soul in 1,400 years. Plus, she lived in a lake in Scotland somewhere. Then there was Yeti, the snowman creature. He couldn't get me either; we were separated by an ocean and blizzards and, anyhow, he was hibernating in the Himalayas.

But Sasquatch was different. He was here, I imagined, on this continent, probably living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sooner or later he would come for me. Right outside my window, whispering. I was sure the ape-man lurked in the darkness.

Christian records rescued me. Without knowing it at the time, my mother bought a gospel bluegrass collection that soothed my soul. The first night my parents played the LPs I fell asleep without visions of the hairy beast. The problem was, from that night on, I had to hear the records to fall asleep. Oftentimes, over and over and over again.

It didn't take long before I knew every word to every verse of every song. From my room in my big bed, I could hear the needle idling in between. I'd sing softly to myself, "some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away." I didn't know what it meant but the words comforted me. And Bigfoot disappeared amid an invisible choir and a band of banjos. S

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