Those Terrifying Boogers
From the time I could walk to the time I went off to college, I lived in perpetual fear of something my Aunt Gloria referred to as a Booger.
The term Booger does not refer to the nasty dried mucus that lines the inside of a nostril. No — in this context, a Booger is a monstrous imaginary figure. It is a Bugbear, a Bogeyman, a creature that lurks in the shadows, hides in closets, under beds, and every other place where my childish imagination hid monsters.
My Aunt Gloria and Grandmother Jarriel had filled my head with Booger tales, purely designed to scare me into a state of compliance. They would warn my cousins and me not to wander too far away from my grandmother’s house, adding a string of intimidating words, “If you wander too far away, a Booger will get you!”
And I believed them. I lived my entire childhood being terrified of Boogers, even though I did not know what a Booger looked liked, what a Booger smelled like, where a Booger lived, or what a Booger ate, although my aunts and uncles implied that they ate unruly children. What I did know was that they were clever, unpredictable creatures who at any point during the day or night, might sprint out of the woods and grab me, so I was always on alert — always on the lookout. I certainly didn’t want to die at the hands of a Booger!
It probably didn’t help matters that my cousins and I made up a game called “The Booger Game.” After the sun went down, one of us (the designated Booger) would hide in Grandmother’s dark, rurally-isolated yard, while we seekers closed our eyes and counted to fifty. Then, we seekers would hold hands in a chain, skip around the yard, and sing and chant: There ain’t no Boogers out tonight! Grandma killed them all last night! At the point where we would skip close to the hidden Booger, he (or she) would leap from the shadows and chase us around the yard, all the while screaming like a South Georgia wild cat and grabbing at us. We raced for the safety of my grandmother’s poured concrete steps, hearts pounding like African drums in response to the unadulterated, indescribable fear. We would play this game for hours, because interestingly enough, being frightened to the point that we needed a defibrillator to revive each other was the greatest fun that anyone could ever imagine.
Why do children love to be scared here and there? Why did I? I’m not sure. I loved Scooby-Doo because the show made my heart beat a little faster. Sitting on the edge of my seat, I watched as the mummy chased Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo through the creepy, old cartoon house. I slapped my hands together just under my chin and prayed, “Please God, let them get away. Just let them escape.” Back then, I was a bona fide scaredy cat — scared of the dark and scared of my own shadow. Watching television shows fed my fears with morsels of mummies, vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other horrific creatures. After seeing The Wizard of Oz, I was scared of tornadoes, flying monkeys, crystal balls, and wicked witches. Rod Serling’s Night Gallery made me scared of statues that come to life at night and follow you around your house. Twilight Zone reruns made me scared to fly, terrified that a wild and wooly beast would perch on the wing of the plane and dismantle the lift flaps and engines until the aircraft failed and fell from the sky like a boulder. Today, my belief that good almost always triumphs over evil brings a freedom and fearlessness to my world, and like butter, my childhood fears have slowly melted away with
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maturity and knowledge — all except one. I still believe that there is a strong possibility that a Booger lives and lurks in the woods behind my house, quietly watching me, stalking me, and patiently waiting for the day that I let my guard down — thanks to my beloved Aunt Gloria, who filled my imagination with bright, brilliant color.
Aunt Gloria passed away last Thursday, and we will miss her forever. We are gathering together today to celebrate her life — a beautiful life filled with laughter, love, and service to others.
Though the doctors in Savannah gave some complicated medical explanation for her passing, I have to wonder — did Aunt Gloria accidentally let her guard down? Did a Booger finally make its move and get her? I guess we’ll never know the truth.
Rest in Peace, Aunt Gloria.