One of the Things I Learned When I Was 3, But It Took Me to 29 to Realize It.
When I was a kid, I used to fall out of bed.
Not just occasionally, but every. single. night.
You’d think my parents would have put one of those attachable crib-like railings on the side of my “big girl” bed because clearly, a big girl I was not, but no. I suppose they figured the best move was to leave me free to fight my monsters of the night without first making me launch myself over a barred piece of metal. Because, you know, concussions are so much better when you don’t have to work for them.
Not that I was ever concussed from the ordeal.
In fact, I never even actually woke up.
Nope. I just rolled on out of there, landing with a muffled thud on the (presumably) orange shag carpeting, and continued right on sleeping. I honestly think my parents did nothing to stop my nighttime base jumps because they enjoyed coming into my room in the morning to see where their toddler had ended up in the night — curled up in a ball at the foot of the bed, or sprawled out like some sort of beached squid, my limbs all knotted and contorted, jammies unshamefully bunched up to expose my baby pot belly and white little calves, the epitome of nonchalance and innocence and bendiness — all the stuff it is to be a toddler.
Then, one night, all of that changed.
One night, I woke up. It was pitch dark. I was lying on my stomach, on what I knew wasn’t my bed, so I pushed myself up.
Or at least, I tried to.
But I couldn’t. Thwack! The back of my head struck metal, just inches above where I lay. I scootched up onto my elbows, chin tucked down, and tried to raise my tush. Thwack! My bum hit metal again.
As an adult, my reaction in this situation would be, 1) What. the. f*ck. 2) Sheer panic.
As a kid, my reaction to this situation was, 1) Sheer panic.
I screamed, I cried, I yelled for mom and dad with such urgency that I’m pretty sure they must have thought someone was trying to kidnap me in the middle of the night, especially when they barged into the room, in panic mode themselves, and couldn’t see me anywhere. I could hear their terrified voices yelling, Katie? Katie?!, but they sounded so far away and muffled by the walls of the wormhole into which I surely must have slipped. The carpet turned soggy with tears below my cheek — carpet? — and suddenly, there was light.
My dad had lifted the bed skirt, took one look at his terrified daughter lying helpless under the bed, and started laughing. My mom’s face popped into the window he’d created, and she joined in.
Now. If you’ve ever asked yourself whether toddlers can feel embarrassment, believe me when I say that they can. And to this day, I’m pretty sure either one of them would react the same way if they woke up in the dark and couldn’t move. But my humiliation didn’t stop me from reaching my arms out to them so they could drag me to safety and place me snugly back in bed.
After that, I stopped falling out.
It’s like the inner workings of my unconscious little mind said, Enough. We can’t handle this kind of stress.
Just one little scare is all it took, and my nighttime antics ceased.
But I think, ever since then, a little part of me has missed the unleashed feeling of the free fall.
And I think that maybe, many of us spend our adult lives trying to get that feeling back again.
Is that so wrong?