When I was a kid, monster movies were a huge thing. Most of them were black and white and badly made, but we still watched them. Mom and my brother Michael were huge fans of Godzilla movies, which they’d either watch at the movie theater or when they made their way to television. We’d watch monsters attack and people running and Tokyo must have been rebuilt at least 20 times. There was Creature from the Black Lagoon — a creature dude chased people around and scared everyone. Then there were the Blob and Green Slime are Coming movies where muddy green rivers and giant green bubble-like shapes attacked people. Some people probably got squished or perished at an even worse fate, but the movies never showed that part, just people running and yelling. I never understood what the big deal was.
I was not a big fan of these monster movies, but I still watched them with my mom and brother and sister, and sometimes Dad too, when he was around. Even though lots of monster movies took place in faraway lands like Japan, the movies scared me, although I could never admit that to my brother or my mom. Then Michael would just call me a scaredy-cat even though he was afraid of ghosts.
One night we sat on the white shag rug in the middle of the den and watched a movie on TV where a giant octopus destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge. Usually, the monsters attacked faraway places.
Michael, my obnoxious younger brother, laughed at me.
“You look scared!” he shouted.
Yes, I cringed and wanted to hide. This hit way too close to home. How could that octopus destroy our bridge?
“That’s our bridge!” I said. “Mom, do you see that?”
Mom sat in the wooden rocking chair and puffed on a cigarette.
“It’s just the monster of the week, dear,” she said. Guess it was no big deal to her.
I wrestled with my fear as much as any seven-year-old could.
“Time for bed!” Dad said, and we shuffled off into the bedroom I share with Michael and Jennifer.
We went to bed after the movie and I had a nightmare of the giant octopus with its long arms wrapped around the Golden Gate Bridge, tearing it down.
I woke up screaming at around 3:00 a.m. One of my first actual nightmares, except for the one where I was being chased by a giant gorilla. Everyone in the house woke up, my Mom and dad, Michael and Jenny, and the lights were on. I could not stop crying as Dad attempted to find out what was wrong. He held me tight while I cried until I calmed down long enough to let him know that a giant octopus has destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Oh that was just a movie, honey. It wasn’t real,” Mom said, trying to comfort me.
“It really happened,” I shouted. “I know it did.” In my mind, it was as real as anything could be.
I would not stop crying and I kept saying repeatedly, “The octopus destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge!” I would not stop until Dad put me in his car at 4:00 a.m. and actually drove to a spot where we could see that the Golden Gate Bridge was still intact and no giant octopus had destroyed it.
I sniffled a little more as Dad drove home, convinced that the Golden Gate Bridge remained intact. The dream still seemed so real to me.