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Mid-Week Middle-Aged Memory

Alternative title: “When the Hand Dropped”

Last Sunday while watching It! The Terror from Beyond Space, I suddenly said, “I’ve seen this movie!”

A crew member is missing. The rest of the crew has not yet seen the monster, although the audience has seen its feet (which, come to think of it, look a little bit like the Creature of the Black Lagoon’s). One man is standing next to a ventilation grate, pondering. Suddenly, a lifeless hand drops down, inside the grate, right in front of him. EEEEEEEEEEE!

I remembered that hand dropping down. It is, in fact, the only thing in the entire picture I remember from that viewing. Do you suppose there are other sci-fi monster movies where a hand drops down in a grate? And what occurs to me now as I write this is why is that ventilation grate a great big square at eye level looking for all the world like a window? But that’s neither here nor there. I remember the hand.

It was the ’70s. My parents would go out for dinner and dancing on a Saturday night. These were more elegant times: my mom and her friends would wear long dresses, the men wore suits. I admit to being envious. My older sisters and I, once Victoria was deemed old enough to be the babysitter, got to stay up till Mom and Dad got home.

Oh, the joy and mystery of staying up late! These were the days when cable offered seven channels and some stations went off the air at midnight. It was a challenge to find something to watch. We loved it when one of the all night stations showed a scary movie. Who doesn’t want to see a scary movie? At least, who wants to admit to not wanting to seeing a scary movie? I seem to think I wanted to be scared, then didn’t necessarily like it so much when I was.

So there we were, ready to be scared. When the hand dropped, we jumped.

“I don’t think anything would have scared me more than that hand,” Victoria said.

“What if it was that things head?” I asked. I think the thing’s head would have been more scary.

I took all these fake monsters at face value. If I was meant to be scared, I was scared. I was scared of every monster on Lost In Space, even when I could see where they had recycled a monster from two episodes ago.

Well, maybe not as scared of the recycled ones. Then too, things are always scarier at night, especially when Mom and Dad aren’t home. Lost in Space re-runs were generally shown in the afternoon, so those monsters were automatically less nightmare-inducing.

Sometimes we could catch a scary movie on a Saturday afternoon. Didn’t there used to be a feature called Chiller? A six-fingered hand would rise up out of a swamp and a gravelly voice would say, “Chil-ler!” Those were the days.

I suppose now I could segue into a middle-aged musing about how I am trying to recapture my childhood by watching these old movies. I don’t think that’s it, though; I think I just enjoy writing about them. And, you know, really, what I’d like to recapture is my parents’ young adulthood and wear a long dress to go out dancing on a Saturday night.

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