So when I was four or five, we went (as we did not infrequently) to my great-grandmother’s house to visit her. The grown-ups all sat together and talked about boring grown-up things, and I went into the kitchen and raided the maid’s stash of Reader’s Digest magazines. (I had, unfortunately, left my copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles at home.) There was an article in one about vampires, which I started reading and which scared me a great deal. The more it scared me, the more avidly I read, and when I got to the end and saw that the article was to be continued in the next issue, I pawed frantically through the rest of them until I found said next issue, and continued reading. By the time the grown-ups were done talking and everybody was ready to go, I was quivering with fear, even though it was still broad daylight and we were in South Carolina, not Transylvania, where, according to the article, vampires were rumored to hang out. (The article suggested that vampires might actually be the stuff of legend rather than of reality, but I dismissed that idea with a haughty toss of my incipiently homosexual head.)
Eventually, after we got home and had dinner, it was time for me to go to bed.
And I wouldn’t, because of course the vampires were going to come and kill me.
I cried and criedI will note that I did not screamuntil my mother finally loaned me the gold cross she wore around her neck, at which point I went to bed willingly, if still terrified. I’d have been happier if I could have taken a stake with me, but I wasn’t allowed to play with sharp things so I knew better than to ask.
My Jewish father (I was being raised Jewish and eventually converted to Judaism) was understandably disconcerted by the whole gold cross thing, so he went out the next day and bought a gold Star of David for me to wear to bed.
It is a testament to his skill as an attorney that he managed to convince me it would do just as well as protection against vampires. By the time he was done sweet-talking me, I went to bed feeling as safe as any four- or five-year-old possibly could in the face of what terrors the world might hold.
And I tell you, I wore that thing for years.
Somewhere along the line, though, I lost it.
And now there’s nothing to protect me against the terrors the world holds.