Attribution of my fear to all things nautical haunted me for years. The cause of this anxiety seemed so near – that feeling you get when a word is on the tip of your tongue but the answer is just out of reach. I finally solved the puzzle quite by accident one day while in an elevator. The song “Tara’s Theme” from “Gone With the Wind” was playing and suddenly the floodgates opened and so many memories came rushing back to me.
When I was a child my family enjoyed watching a television show called “Million Dollar Movie”; the music I heard in the elevator happened to be the theme for that show! The format was to feature popular movies which would run for an entire week, airing twice nightly; after one week a new movie would be shown. For some reason many of the films were scary and rather traumatizing for an impressionable ten year old.
One of the first movies I recall was “Creature From the Black Lagoon”, a dark tale of a strange prehistoric beast that lurked in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. I would scream and huddle close to my father every time the creature appeared on the screen.
Then there was “Journey to the Center of the Earth” about a deranged professor/explorer who led his intrepid party on an expedition in search of the mythical buried city of Atlantis. It was rife with monsters, evil sorcerers and dangerous crystalline mines. I would have nightmares about being trapped under water in one of those mines; I’d wake up in a cold sweat yet I couldn’t resist watching the movie whenever it was shown.
An annual family favorite was “The Ten Commandments” – a cinematic masterpiece by Cecil B. DeMille. As a kid I loved Bible movies! Moses and the Israelites were fleeing Egypt with Rameses and the Egyptian charioteers hot on their heels. Upon reaching the Red Sea, Moses raised his arms and commanded the waters to part, leaving a clear dry path for the Israelites. Taking advantage of the opening, Rameses ordered his troops to continue their pursuit. Suddenly the waters began to churn and roil. Waves as tall as mountains came crashing down on the Egyptian soldiers, swallowing them up like children’s toys. While it was unquestionably one of the most spectacular special effects of all time, the only thing I could think about was how terrifying it must be to find oneself drowning, knowing that death was inevitable and imminent.
Water and all its dangers played a major role in most of the movies that caused me great anxiety. I never had a close encounter with drowning so I just chalked it up to an inexplicable phobia; somehow coming to that realization eased my mind. Years later when my parents invited the family on a cruise to the Bahamas, I admit to having some trepidation but it was our first cruise and my parents were very excited.
Our ship was enormous – the equivalent of a floating resort. Everything we could possibly want or need was available to us from bowling to casinos to Broadway musicals. It was perfect – until we ran into stormy weather which forced everyone inside. I was feeling rather uneasy so I decided to stay in my cabin and relax. Turning on the tv I settled in to watch the movie of the night which happened to be “TITANIC”!! Are you kidding me?! What programming idiot thought that was a good choice?? I spent the last two days of the cruise in my cabin!
That cruise experience pushed me over the H2O edge and I didn’t go anywhere near the water for a while. Who could blame me? That didn’t last long, though; being a true Pisces, I can’t stay on dry land for too long. I’d be like a fish out of water!