but once a year we would go visit my aunt who lived in a cluttered house with dozens of relatives in all stages of life passing through and gifting her with various Catholic doodads scattered about like crackerjack prize indulgences. and invariably I would come upon some Skull or Skeleton that would just scare the peewodden out of me. one year it was the statue of St. Francis on the landing, that was about 2 feet high and had a fairly big skull at its base symbolizing that he triumphed over mortality or was a great philosopher or something like that. I would try not to pass that statue and if I did I would shut my eyes. at the same time I would be thinking up reasons to pass it and scare myself or try to get over the scare or whatever it is little kids feel when they're trying to get a grip on themselves and being scared is pretty awful but just a tad neat-feeling.
same with the pamphlet some uncle left behind about Prayers at the Bedside of the Dying. I am not sure who, if anybody, had died recently enough to justify this booklet's presence, but there it was in all its pinky red glory, with an illustration on the front of a SKELETON REACHING IN FROM THE NIGHT THROUGH THE WINDOW to grab some old sick-looking guy laying in a hospital bed. I was about 6 or 7 and remember peeking at the cover and being so horrified I stuck it immediately up on a high shelf of the china cupboard, only to take it back down again and look at it real quick and scare myself again and stick it back up on the shelf---it was so horrific that even covering the picture with my hand didn't make the fear disappear---and kinda keep it up on the shelf and dust the shelf with it while humming and looking the other way and then SNEAKING ANOTHER LOOK and freaking out and keeping this up for like 10 minutes till my mom figured out what I was doing and took the pamphlet away.
i guess this behavior is normal for little kids. hell some of them carry it over into their adult dating lives. they've scientifically proven that the thrill of fear isn't that far off from the thrill of a turn-on. whatever.
i buy a lot of skull jewelry now. i can't figure out whether that's a controlled outlet for my anxiety, or pleasure in my self-mastery, or whether the craftsmen just make friendlier-looking skulls than they used to.