My sister and I had our own personal transformation in October. Our kids begged us to do “Screams in the Dark,” a huge attraction of haunted houses out at the Northwest Michigan Fairgrounds.
My answer was immediate: “I’ll wait in the car.”
Kerry, however, made a play for Cool Mom: “Let’s ALL go!”
“Really?” I seethed.
“Really!” Kerry answered with too much gusto.
But when the night arrived, there was a problem: The guys were out of town. This meant we would have to be the frontrunners on this one, the brave ones, the fearless leaders. We’d have to be, gulp, the adults.
At the front
Kerry volunteered to take the lead on our walks (runs) through the haunted houses. And, I, of course, could bring up the rear. One of us would fend off the incoming zombies, the other could screech while being chased by them. Between us, the kids could enjoy a comfort zone of terror.
The start was a haunted hayride back to the barns.
“Kids’ stuff,” I mused to the group at large, warming to the whole idea at last.
But when the lady in charge reached to check for my armband, I yelped in fear at the sudden movement. The group murmured happily. They had ferreted out the screamer. The result was a calm coming over the group, everyone braver than that girl.
During the hayride, flames shot out of barrels, headless men jumped out of trees and werewolves loped after the wagon. I had the luck of being at the back of the ride, my shoulder against the dark night. And, as it turned out, one inch from where the werewolf hung off the wagon howling.
By the time we got to the first haunted house, the kids had to convince me to stay. It was a rocky start, but, Kerry was in the lead. She used a firm hand and kept the party going. She lined us up front to back: Kerry, four kids, me, each holding the shirt of the person in front of them in a death grip.
We marched into the first haunted house. Only this one wasn’t just haunted. It was PITCH BLACK. Oh, and a MAZE. This is a pretty raw deal for someone who doesn’t like tight, dark places. Our group compressed until we were one large person.
We followed Kerry as we did circles, argued and prayed, before finally stumbling upon another group, who led us through a narrow inflated nylon tunnel. At this point, hyperventilating became real and present.
But, all at once, we burst out of the dark tunnel and into the dark night again. It was a miracle. We started screeching and hugging and jumping. We’d survived!
Next up: Haunted house No. 2 and a frenzy of strobe lights.
“We are all going to have seizures!” the mothers diagnosed. People jumped out at us in crazy costumes and screamed in our faces, coming out of dark corners and from holes in the floor in strobe-light fashion—appearing and disappearing in jerky movements. Our children still huddled between us. Kerry was getting good at navigating complete insanity.
At the third haunted house, things got serious. We were standing outside the barn, waiting in line with a bunch of other senseless people, when a man approached us. He was dressed in shredded dark clothing with a half-destroyed face mask and green skin. He was doing a lot of growling.
“Don’t make eye contact with him!” I warned the children. This made him zero in on me with a ferocious thirst. He wasn’t speaking. He was just growling. Within an inch of my face.
“Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod,” is all I said to him and kept trying to turn away. He followed me, glowering in my face.
“Easy now!” I told him. To this, he backed me up against the barn, let out a howl and PUNCHED THE WALL NEXT TO MY FACE.
Imagine what a crowd-pleaser that was.
I screamed and dissolved into a puddle on the ground, and everyone in line cheered in appreciation at the show. The kids were laughing hysterically. What cool moms they had!
There were still two more haunted houses to endure. By the time we got out, we were feeling a little weepy and many years older. We couldn’t wait to make an exit and find someone else to adult for a while.
Back in the parking lot, a confession was made: Kerry peed her pants about 10 yards into the first barn (“only a little”). Next year, we decided, we would bring strong, burly men to guard the front and back of the mothers.
And the kids and their brilliant idea? Not a one of them would admit to being scared. However, ALL of them wanted to sleep together that night, within sight of their Cool Moms. Our transformation was complete.