Friday, December 15, 2023

Andy Young: Getting dark again

By Andy Young

Of all chores that I despised as a child, my least favorite by far was taking out the garbage after sunset.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only child who at one time or another suffered from nyctophobia, or for those not conversant in ancient Greek, fear of the dark. I grew up before leash laws or invisible fences existed. In our neighborhood back then dogs, including a sizable German Shepherd or two, roamed freely, and in my mind the only thing they liked more than knocking over trash cans was taking chomps out of frightened kids whose Simon Legree-like parents had assigned them the job of taking the trash out after the sun had gone down.

I wasn’t a total scaredy-cat, though. Darkness in a familiar setting was okay. But before I reached the third grade, being placed somewhere new where there was a dearth of light brought on full-blown dread. I vividly remember an overnight stay at my grandparents’ house, where the guest beds were located in a windowless room in the basement. When Grandma Spaine tucked us in and shut that door behind her, the only thing that kept me from shrieking bloody murder was that I didn’t want my younger brother, who was occupying the adjoining mattress, to think I was more afraid than he was.

Fortunately, I’ve long since outgrown my fear of lightlessness, and it’s a good thing, too. Next Thursday is the shortest day of the calendar year, and even individuals who don’t excel at math know that leaves a whole lot of darkness in a 24-hour period.

However, those of us in the greater Portland area should probably count our blessings, since we’re going to get eight hours, 55 minutes, and 40 seconds of daylight on Dec. 21, which is eight more minutes than the folks in and around Bangor will receive that day. And those lucky Bangorites will get 14 more minutes than Presque Isle, which will get a minute and a half more than Quebec City, which will get three minutes more than Fort Kent.

At least we don’t live in Barrow, Alaska, where the sun set at 1:15 p.m. on Nov. 19, and isn’t scheduled to reappear until the afternoon of Jan. 23 at 1:07 p.m.

Life is better, I’ve decided, when one isn’t plagued by fear of the dark, so naturally I’m thankful that I’ve grown past that phobia. But that’s not the only thing I’ve outgrown since childhood.

There really isn’t any rhyme or reason to the lengthy list of once-significant things that now play little if any role in my life. Other once-meaningful items I’ve grown out of include all-you-can-eat buffets, grape popsicles, Sugar Frosted Flakes, commercial television, Hostess Twinkies, major league professional sports, the Three Stooges, and Cheech and Chong. (Fun fact: given his career path, it appears that Cheech himself has long since outgrown Cheech and Chong.)

I’ve also grown into some things which I formerly spurned. For example, beets. During my childhood, beets were nasty-smelling purple things in a jar that Grandpa Young, for some inexplicable reason, loved. However, thanks to a few significant friends and a slightly more open mind, I’ve grown to love beets, particularly when they’ve been roasted just right. They’ve got to be fresh beets, though. I won’t eat anything that’s older than I am, and the actual age of beets in a can or jar can be determined only with the help of carbon dating.

I’m grateful that I no longer fear beets, or the dark.

Now if only I could conquer my anxiety about taking out the garbage. <

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