Of my many fears born in childhood, there are some that I’ve never quite been able to shake. I’m still afraid of spiders, for one — creepy; crawly; hiding in my shower, waiting to attack me when I’m just trying to get ready for work and OMG please just go down the drain already. Or I’m calling my dad. And don’t think I won’t do it.
We have my fear of heights — or, more accurately, my fear of falling. Fear of public embarrassment. Fear of lima beans (come on — you know they’re disgusting).
And my fear of the Wicked Witch of the West.
When other children were enjoying L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wizard Of Oz — in either book or film format — I was the kid cowering in the corner, weeping quietly to herself and shrieking whenever Dorothy would fall prey to the Wicked Witch’s schemes.
And that’s what I’ve always called her: The Wicked Witch.
I remember watching “The Wizard Of Oz” for the first time when I was around 3 years old. If you believe my mother’s tale (which, you know, I guess I do), she was desperate for the chance to take a shower. An active child and, at that time, only child, Mom needed to occupy me long enough to get cleaned up. She plunked me down in front of the TV and scrolled through the channels until she stumbled upon the movie that would taint me forever.
“I thought it was a children’s classic!” she howls now, staring at me.
Even 20 years later, I remind her that she ruined my life.
Watching the woman in question morph from her dog-hating “human” self into the Wicked Witch of the West during a Kansas twister, my eyes were probably as large as globes. Some things happened in the movie — Dorothy gets far from home, meets a bunch of unusual characters, finds some ruby slippers, etc. — but I wasn’t concerned with any of that.
All I could see was that face. That big, green face.
The years have not been kind. Every time I think I’m “over” my fear of the Wicked Witch, something happens to send me right back to square one. Though I’ve seen “The Wizard of Oz” in snippets since childhood, I’ve absolutely never sat down to watch it again.
Of course, this is a source of hilarity for friends and family.
I’m going to say it loud and sincerely: I’m Deathly Afraid Of The Witch. So if you think this has kept my sister from torturing me with witch-related items over the years, you’re wrong.
The first sign of trouble came on Christmas morning in 1988. My mom mistakenly believed that I’d actually loved “The Wizard of Oz” (um, what?) and bought me a set of dolls from the movie: Dorothy, of course, with a tiny plastic Toto; Glinda the Good Witch; and You-Know-Who.
We have home movies of me turning the box over in my hands, an expression of terror slowly creasing my features. I looked from my mom to my dad, wide-eyed, before I said slowly, “It’s the Wicka Witch.” (I hadn’t yet mastered words like “wicked.”)
My mom says she felt terrible, that she hadn’t realized I was afraid, but she’s laughing on the tape. Laughing.
My sister, kind soul that she is, has purchased dolls in various forms for me, plus birthday cards bearing the witch’s trademark cackle, T-shirts, etc. Since the ’80s, the Witch has followed me everywhere. I tried to combat my fears by even dressing as the witch for Halloween — pictured above in 1988 — but nothing worked.
I hate her.
When I cop to my terror about that green-faced nightmare, others smile and shake their heads. My aunt Jacki has reported that it wasn’t the witch that scared her so badly growing up, but the flying monkeys.
I’d totally take a barrel of flying monkeys over any witch. I’d even let them pick me up and fly away — as long as it was away from You-Know-Who.
So tell me. Am I alone in my witch fears? Has a character scarred you for life?