Childhood Memories — Childhood Fears

What are your scariest childhood memories — your childhood fears? Were you afraid of the dark? The monster under the bed? Getting in trouble (that one scared me)? And what did you do to banish your fears?

Normally I would talk to Mama and she would make it better. But when I was a very little child — maybe six or seven — I suddenly had a new and most terrible fear, one that I couldn’t take to Mama. She could die! It could happen while I was sleeping. So, night after night, I lay in bed, fighting to stay awake to make sure Mama didn’t die.

Another terrible thought crept in. Maybe she had died already.  I got up and crept to her bed and checked to make sure she was breathing. Then I went back to my bed, relieved — for a little while.

Childhood Memories — Childhood Fears


I had to do something to save Mama – but what? 

Should I pray to God to not let Mama die? No — it might give him the idea. I was stuck. The worst thing in the world could happen and I felt helpless to stop it! Then the answer came to me — I could trick God!

Tricking God

I couldn’t ask God not to let her die, but I could ask for something else — something that would keep it from happening without giving God any ideas. I made up a  prayer.

“Dear God, please make Mama wake up feeling good in the morning.”

Childhood Memories

It worked. I prayed and the next day Mama woke up. I prayed again the next night and she woke up again. For years I prayed night after night, and for all those years Mama was safe. One night, years ago I stopped.

Grandmama Was Old and She Might Die – Childhood Memories

Another of my worries was Grandmama. She was old and she might die. I’d be sad, but that wasn’t the worst thing that would happen to her. Grandmama wasn’t going to go to Heaven because she never went to church! She read her Bible a lot, but I knew that probably wasn’t enough to make up for church.

Mobile had plenty of churches — there were three right at the end of Petain Street. And most everybody I knew went to one of them.

But Grandmama wouldn’t go to any of them — not to the Baptist Church with Aunt Pauline or the Methodist Church with Mama and me. I loved Grandmama and I’d miss her. But you had to go to church to get to Heaven — the rules were real clear to me when I was little.

Do you remember when you were certain about the rules?

I saw a balance scale displayed in Van Antwerp’s drug store. It gave me an idea. Maybe I could convince God to take her to Heaven.

I imagined Grandmama not going to church weighing down one side. On the other side, I piled the reasons she should go to Heaven.

#1. She reads her Bible a lot.

#2 She watches the TV preachers too. But that’s not the same as going to a real church, is it? I mean she can’t take communion through the television. Do you have to take communion to go to Heaven?

#3. She takes care of me and lets me lay in her bed and watch TV when I’m sick.

#4. She does nice things for people. She baked a chicken pie for the Carpenters when Mrs. Carpenter was sick.

Childhood Fears

Would the good deeds along with the Bible-reading and TV preacher-watching be enough to outweigh church?

I wasn’t sure. So, I told God my list and left it with Him.

I didn’t have to worry about Mama and Heaven. If only one person on earth was going it would be her. Because Mama knew God. They loved each other. She talked to him all the time. She’d go to Heaven all right — just not yet!


About Daddy

You might wonder why I didn’t mention Daddy. That’s because I didn’t worry about him. It couldn’t help. He would not be going to Heaven.

He never went to church, read the Bible, or watched the TV preachers. And he cussed — a lot. He did do nice things for people. He helped our neighbors when they had a flood in their house. And when I had a sore throat he always took care of me. It made me sad but it was a fact. So I didn’t think about it.

What about me?

I had never considered that I might not go to Heaven until one day in Sunday school. We had a new teacher who talked about the other place. She said even little children would go there if they were bad.

I could go to the other place?

I was scared because I did a lot of bad things. Sometimes I talked back and pouted. I lied to Mama and said I’d practiced piano when I hadn’t. Once I took a dime from Grandmama’s coin purse. And I didn’t like going to church either. I never paid attention. And I had a fight with a boy in my Sunday school class and called him a bad name.

I took my fears to Mama.

I cried and told her I was afraid wouldn’t go to Heaven and neither would Grandmama. Just like that, she put an end to my fears — except the one I didn’t tell her. “Get those thoughts right out of your head. God loves you and you’ll be with Him someday. And he loves Grandmama and knows what’s in her heart. Just trust Him.“

So, Mama convinced me I was going to Heaven — but that was something else to worry about.

What if I didn’t like heaven?

I was afraid I wouldn’t. I wanted to be with Mama and maybe Grandmama. And my friend Delilah. She’d be there for sure. She was a Holiness. The Holiness had to be extra good because they had a lot more sins to watch out for.

But the way the grown-ups talked about Heaven, it didn’t sound like much fun. The things they were most excited about were the streets — they were gold. There were mansions too. And there were angels. And a Heavenly choir. And we’d all sing.


Would Heaven be boring?

Angels and mansions and golden streets and singing — was that all there was? No playing or watching cartoons on TV — just singing day and night — forever.

It sounded boring — but it was still better than going to the other place. Grown-ups talked about that place a lot more than they talked about Heaven. It was made of fire and screaming people.

Hell - Childhood Memories — Childhood Fears

It scared me. So, I prayed every night, “And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

When I look back at these childhood memories, I realize childhood fears — Mama, God, Heaven, sin, and the other place — could be dispelled with a child’s faith in prayers and magic spells. I wish they would work on the grown-up fears that keep me awake at night. Could a prayer or magic spell work on haters? On the war? The price of gas? That I might have a stroke when I walk the dog in this 95+ degree heat and 80% humidity?

By Ruthi Birch

September 15, 2021