Back when I was a kid, I used to spend summers at my uncle’s and aunt’s house. One of the things my uncle managed to do every summer was scare the ever loving piss out of me, with all of the scares culminating to one big scare when I was about 11 where my dad walked in, having not seen me for a couple weeks, only to find me in the fetal position under the coffee table crying like a baby and shaking like a leaf. More on that another time.
Well, a couple years ago, the torch of being scared shitless by my uncle was passed from me to my nephew. And, more recently, my niece. She’s 10. Her time has come. And, for the first time, I had the pleasure in partaking of this time honored tradition.
The setup actually worked out pretty well. The night of the special occasion my aunt, uncle, pops, cousin, niece and I had hit a haunted tour in an old, supposedly haunted, castle. While she put on a good game face, we all knew my niece was at least a little creeped out.
When we got back to the house, my cousin went out with his friends and my uncle, aunt, pops and myself sat out on the porch to catch up on our lives and bullshit in general. My niece went upstairs to the guest room to watch TV.
After bs’ing for a while, the topic turned to whether or not to give the girl a scare. I was all for it. As was my uncle. My dad just laughed, as did my aunt. Those are “no’s” in my book. We set a plan. It wasn’t complicated, it wasn’t detailed, it was the old standby, proven to work time after time. Lights out, pantyhose on the head, flashlight on the face. Works every time.
My uncle went and got the pantyhose and flashlight, which he handed off to me. I placed it on my head and creeped up the steps (when you walk on the sides of the stairs, as opposed to the middle, there’s much less noise. My uncle headed the other direction toward the basement. I was simply going to wait for him to hit the breakers, then I was to make my move.
Soon enough, the lights went off, and I waited at the top of the stairs. You never want to jump in to early. You have let fear simmer for a little before you full on serve it. “Turn on the lights!” I heard my niece yell out.
“TURN ON THE LIGHTS!”
“TURN ON THE LIGHTS! THIS IS NOT FUNNY!”
I waited. She sounded more angry than scared, but that’s how she is. She’s a tough cookie.
“I’M NOT KIDDING! YOU BETTER TURN THEM ON!”
I counted to ten and jumped into the doorway, pantyhose over my head, flashlight under the chin. Not a word from my niece.
My uncle and I must have been on the same page, as at that moment the lights came on. My niece was just staring at me. There were two emotions: fear and annoyance. Annoyance I’m used to. Fear I’ve never seen. I almost felt bad.
“Did I scare you?” I asked.
She turned the tv on and started watching it. I guess I was dismissed.
I went downstairs and outside with the family. We all had a good laugh. Right after I came downstairs, my niece came down and started watching the tv that’s on the island in the kitchen. Where she could see all of us.
That’s where she fell asleep until my dad woke her up and told her it was time for bed. She made sure he was going upstairs, too, before she went herself.
Yeah. We definitely got her.
My sister, Joy, gave me an ear full the next day on the way home. Trying to inform me that “she’s just a little girl” and wondering if I “felt big now, picking on a little girl.”
I explained to Joy that not only did I feel big, but that my niece was not a little girl. She is family. And it’s family tradition to scare the shit out of each other when we are at my uncle’s. It’s not out of meanness, it’s out of love. If we didn’t love our niece, we wouldn’t do it. Joy knows this. She was part of it. She did it to me.
It’s the circle of life.