The fear of sirens and the blessing of surnames

November 30, 2012 – A childhood memory popped into my head yesterday while thinking about my Uncle Harry, who passed away recently.

The actual event has more to do with his two older sons (my cousins) than him, but because he was a police detective, he played a special role.

I don’t remember exactly how old we were at the time; my two cousins and I are the same age so I’ll say roughly seven or eight. While playing outside on their street, they began to chase me and in an effort to get away from them, I ran up the steps and into what I thought was their house. Stopped dead in my tracks, the people inside this strange house stared at me in stunned silence for a moment before I panicked and ran back out the door.

When I reached my cousins on the sidewalk below, the two of them were laughing hysterically and falling all over each other. Afraid and embarrassed, I made them swear they wouldn’t tell their father what I had done because I didn’t want to be hauled off to jail. Why my childhood brain thought I committed a crime, I don’t know, although these days some states have laws that allow you to shoot someone you don’t know who walks into your home. Thankfully, this was a simpler time.

This incident triggered my irrational childhood fear of sirens. Whenever I heard a siren, I ran home to my safe place. A major panic attack set in if I was in school and heard a siren in the distance. I remember sitting at my desk and almost losing it because I couldn’t run home. Why the fear? I guess I thought my cousins ratted on me, and I was finally going to have to pay for my crime.

I’m not sure I shared this story with my friends, but I know a few of them would find it pretty amusing. Years later, it was Uncle Harry – or at least his name – that did save me from the police one night and my friends haven’t let me forget it.

Huddled in a car listening to music one winter’s night, we sat at our favorite corner spot. It was too cold to be outside, and we were too young to go to clubs and bars, so it was the next best thing. We weren’t doing anything too awful, but when the cops knocked on the window and asked us to roll it down, it was obvious we were partaking in something that some states are beginning to legalize. The officers asked us to get out of the car, which was punishment enough because we were so frightened, and started to question us about what we were doing even though it was obvious. One of the officers asked for my name, which I nervously gave him, and after my response, he smiled and told me I could get back into the car if I was too cold standing outside. Unfortunately, my friends didn’t receive the same invitation.

The cops let us all off the hook that night, but you’d think by the ribbing I received I was the only one. We all learned a lesson we haven’t forgotten, just as my friends haven’t forgotten the special treatment I received because the officer knew my uncle and recognized my surname!

I’m not sure I ever told Uncle Harry about that incident, but I assume he’s in a place now where he knows everything. And knowing him, it probably gave him a little chuckle.

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5 thoughts on “The fear of sirens and the blessing of surnames

  1. I had to laugh at the situation where you went to the wrong house. I had a similar incident when I was young. At the time it was horrifying, but now it does make a humorous story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff | pbmarshall

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