Sunday, March 25, 2007

Child Intuition

Five kid-sized steps inside the threshold of our room and then Leap the last few feet onto the first twin bed to avoid any monster hands waiting to wrap bony fingers around the ankles of little girls. Once Katy was safe on the yellow Holly Hobbie comforter, it was my turn. We wore matching flannel nightgowns and although they swirled around our legs, threatening to trip us up, this was how we got into our beds every night. Mine was closest to the doorway and big dark closet – hers was underneath the window.

Sometime after midnight my primitive intuition switched on, humming so gently I never woke up. Fourteen steep steps down to the second floor, turn and walk through the sewing room out to the hallway. Turn again and make my way down the sixteen steps to the daylight basement, never touching the rickety iron railing loosened from years of children gripping it for balance as we tore down the stairs. Surrounded by darkness and silence. Turn at the bottom of the stairs and walk around the corner into the room where Mommy and Daddy sleep. I stood at the foot of the bed like some character from a Stephen King novel. Nobody knows how long.

Eventually my presence chipped away at the bubble of sleep surrounding my parents and they awoke to find me standing there facing them. Asleep. My father carried me back upstairs to my bedroom like a new bride and tucked me in. Katy never woke up. My brothers’ sleep was not disturbed by my walkabout. Not even I could recall being out of my bed in the middle of the night, but my mother and father were awakened this way night after night for several months.

One evening during a nasty snowstorm my father awoke to the howling of bitter, frozen air swirling through the basement. The back door stood open and beyond, our backyard, buried under three feet of snow. He ran out into the night, panicky, calling for me, afraid that I had veered off course. Coming fully awake, he realized he could see no footsteps but his own and came back to the house. He pounded up both flights of stairs and stood huffing and puffing over my bed, unsure of what to do with the extra adrenaline coursing through him as he saw me tucked in safe and warm.

Soon after my night journeys began the house of cards began to collapse. The end of my sleepwalking came with complete and total disintegration of our family, such as it was.


Kim said...

Oh no. I was so happy that you were safe and warm in your bed, but there goes the rug right out from under me.

This must be so difficult to write. You are doing an incredible, gorgeous job and I am on the edge of my seat for more, when you are ready.

Suzy said...

Whoa, I was there all safe and warm and then WHAM!
Interesting how you link your sleepwalking with the undoing of the family. Amazing the responsibility you take on as a child, and not really being allowed to be one yourself.
Amazing writing. I am in awe.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

You've found your voice, Kari. Here it is.

Deb said...

Oh my goodness, Kari. I'm on those stairs with you, standing at the foot of your parents' bed. Wondering why your night journeys led you there. On the edge of my seat for more of your incredible story.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Wow. This is intense. Your little child self knew some big changes were coming.

Great writing.

Jerri said...

Amazing that even then you felt the weight of responsibility. Great writing of a difficult story, Kari.

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