It all starts with zombies

I know, I know. It’s supposed to end with Zombies, but not in this case. I do not like scary movies ever since I saw Friday the 13th Part Two at Mandy Rice’s sleepover birthday party when I was 10. I steadily avoided the Freddy, Chuckie and anything with hitchhikers. I relapsed in the mid-1990s when the posters for Toys and Candyman confused me and I went to see the latter in college. I still worry that if I look in the mirror I might accidentally think “Candyman” five times and summon a demon spirit (“Did I just think that again or was that the first time. Candyman. Stopppit!”) But I don’t mind zombies. I mean, they’re really slow and not smart at all. What’s scary about that? Anything I can outrun or outwit without really trying isn’t going to keep me up at night. Zombies are really, really gross. But for me, gross is unpleasant, not scary.

For my daughter, not so much.

The recent popularity of zombie culture has done a number on her. Plants vs. Zombies was tolerable, but glimpses of her older brother watching The Walking Dead on his iPad were not. Watching a few minutes of the zombie comedy Sean of the Dead put her over the top. Just as I spent months of my adolescence sleeping with the lights on, convinced my eyelashes brushing the pillow as I blinked were Jason’s approaching footsteps, my own daughter is now unable to fall asleep alone.

In an effort to get her over this hump and get back to our normal nighttime routine (say, a little sleep on mom’s part, maybe?) I asked her what we could do. She suggested a lot of things, some of which we did (move her bed against the wall so she can have a safe side) some we have not (actually, that’s a lie. In desperation, we’ve done everything we’ve ever heard of as well as her own extreme ideas about a solution – including getting a pet rabbit and putting it in her room). One seemed pretty easy. We would never say the word Zombie or otherwise discuss preparations for the coming theoretical zombie apocalypse (difficult for my son, in fact) or have images of zombies in our general vicinity.

So we went to the mall to go shopping. It was crowded, but I felt really lucky because we got a centrally located parking spot. As I went to unbuckle my seatbelt, I caught a glimpse of something familiar out the driver’s side window. A family was passing next to our car on the way into the mall. In an instant, I knew what I was seeing, and I was so surprised I announced to all. “Wow. I just saw, really close up, a mom breastfeeding her kid as they walked.”

I was impressed. I breastfed all four of my kids, including twins, for the first year of their lives. I feel the effort means that I can slip that into most conversations as I have just done. I also thought it was a highlight of the early years of motherhood and I kind of missed it. I thought that it was pretty cool that this mom was actually nursing as she walked into one of the tonier malls I have been too. I took a second look at this family as they walked toward the mall. I could see the child’s feet on the other side of mom and some of the kid’s legs, so I know this wasn’t a tiny baby. There was an older kid and a dad-type with one really big, really long dreadlock. We all looked at this family as we sat in the car. My teenage daughter said. “That’s weird.” I didn’t jump right in and say anything. I mean, weird isn’t necessarily bad, especially to my teenage daughter. I was formulating a measured while also supportive response when the entire family turned around and looked at us. Oh. My. God. Was the window open? Did they hear? Was I, breastfeeder of four, going to get swept up into the nursing wars? On the other side!?

I just started saying “Breast is best!” over and over again and I held up my hands as if their pointing fingers were guns. Wait. Were they pointing or waving? Why were they all smiling so much? Were they really looking at us? They turned and headed into the mall and I said a little prayer that we wouldn’t be vilified. I opened my door and saw something truly weird in the car next door.

“Hey kids, maybe that family was looking at this.”

In the driver’s seat was the top half of a mannequin, naked and painted to look as if the flesh had fallen away from its rib cage and the remaining skin was grey and rotting.

My zombie-hating daughter freaked out.

“I can’t believe that on this day, of all days, the day we’ve all agreed to stop saying the z-word, we see a zombie mannequin in the car parked next to us!” I said.


“Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to say the z word.”

“No! I thought it was a clown!”



A version of this post originally appeared at The Ill-Prepared Housewife.