Wednesday, October 16, 2013

186. Growing Up

I've decided that some of the items on the list will be preceeded by longer stories from other times in my life; because that's how they make sense to me.

I have always been a fan of enclosed spaces. I'm not sure what the opposite of claustrophobic is (claustrophillic?), but that would be me. There are several good things that have come from this: exceptional hide-and-go-seek skills, sky-high tolerance for being squeezed in with my face firmly planted in a stranger's bosom on the subway at 8am, and the firm belief that I will always be able to successfully elude any murderer who might be looking for me. Let's be honest here, even Hannibal Lecter wouldn't think to look in the dryer. 

However, there are also some negative consequences of this proclivity for close quarters, the worst of which is my completely unconscionable tendency to hog the covers. I find I sleep more soundly if I feel like canned refried beans wrapped lovingly in the soft embrace of a flour tortilla, cheesy dreams melting soothingly over my beany body... and leaving whomever I may be sharing the bed with nothing to warm their freezing bodies but their seething fury.

It's really not as romantic as I make it sound.

As a kid, when I was upgraded from crib to bed, my parents circumvented their fears of me falling out by tucking in the covers around the mattress SUPER tight. This effectively pinned my body in place like a blade of grass under the foot of a giant. I relished this, much to the bemusement of my parents. As soon as they left the room and turned off the light, I would slowly wiggle down so that my entire body was encapsulated under the layers of sheets and comforter, my nose being squished down and my breath super-heating my little space pod of glory. One night as I lay there (wondering if this was what bananas felt like inside their peels, and whether or not bananas would even think about such things when they could be spending all their time fretting in hellish anxiety about what the inside of a monkey's mouth feels like), I was struck by a brilliant idea.

Ever so slowly, my movement impeded by my straight-jacket of covers, I wiggled and inched over to the edge of the mattress. With gentle trepidation, I let my body tip and slide over the edge of the bed. My hypothesis had been correct: the sheets were tucked in so tightly that my body was suspended in midair, pressed against the side of the mattress. My child-body was so light that the sheets had no trouble whatsoever sustaining my weight, holding me in place 4 feet above the ground. I almost cried out in joy, but stopped myself, fearing that my parents would come in and wrest me from my gravity-defying cocoon of delight. So there I lay, my hands curled up under my chin, drifting gently to sleep under the assumption that this is what it felt like to sleep in a cloud, floating in the sky.

In the morning I woke up to my mom calling my name in desperation. She had come into the room and seen the perfectly made bed, suspiciously lacking the little child-lump. 

"I'm here!" I managed to cry, muffled though it was with my lips squashed against the side of the mattress. I reached my hands up onto the surface of the bed and hoisted my body back up to where it belonged. My mom was briefly disoriented before she figured out what I had done. From that day forward for the next couple of years, I continued to suspend myself as I went to sleep. And so it was, my dreams populated with marvelous tales of weightlessness.

One night, not so different from any other night, I was floating above the ground, hovering comfortably on the tipping point between awake and asleep. Suddenly, something shifted. My eyes shot open just as the sheets rapidly unfurled from under the mattress. I gave a yelp as the blankets flew up and unceremoniously vomited my helpless ragdoll body out onto the hard floor. I lay flat on my back, gasping for air, watching the sheets float gently downwards, like wisps of judgmental fog. For a few moments I lay there in shock and confusion. Had I done something to offend my bed? Was there an earthquake? Had someone boobytrapped my bed in an effort to quell my whimsical fancy-time? After a period of letting increasingly bizarre explanations bounce around in my head, the hints of real understanding began to tease at the edges of my 8-year-old consciousness. These hints coalesced in my brain, resolving into one, clear truth, which I whispered aloud in stunned disbelief,

"I'm too big now."

I continued to lie on the ground, struggling with my newfound knowledge. Looking down at my pajama-clad body, I tried to measure the distance from my face to my feet. My toes were, upon closer examination, considerably farther away than they had been even a month before. I sniffled a little bit, not quite sure where the sudden, all-encompassing sorrow was coming from. All I knew was that an indefinable something was slipping away from me. I suddenly clambered to my feet, and padded down the hall to my older sister's room, who was 10 years old at the time, while I was 8. I opened her door quietly, and climbed into her large double bed. Scooting over, I poked her shoulder gently until she opened her eyes and blearily regarded me in the darkness.

"Wh.. what is it?" she asked.

"What's it like to be big?" I asked, my voice quavering.

"What?" she repeated, rubbing her eyes with her knuckles.

"I said, what's it like to be big? To be grown up?"

She looked at me, her wide-eyed little sister, probably looking a bit more like a lemur than a child.

"It's a lot like being small. Except you're taller."

"Oh. That's not so bad."

"Nope, not so bad."

"Can I sleep here?"


This life-affirming experience was a bit dimmed by the interaction the next morning, which involved my sister furiously trying to convince me that not only did I steal all the covers, but I also steamrollered her body no less than 3 times. She stated unequivocally that I was never to sleep in her bed, ever again, but that she loved me anyway and hoped I felt better. I stomped my foot and growled that yes, I did feel better, thanks (because I did).

I didn't mind growing up so much after that.

When we were on trail there were several times when Whistle, Dumptruck, Grim and I would talk about how the trail was letting us mature in a new way even though we were already adults.

We were growing up through allowing our childlike enchantment with the world to come back to us. 

And oh, how it has.

Clever Girl


  1. Don't ever grow up. Stay just the way you are.

  2. Childlike enchantment indeed! The simpler life gets the sweeter it feels. Love, Mom and Dad

  3. I have now added toys to the hiker boxes.

  4. I really enjoy your writing, both the topic and style. ~ Redwood

    1. Thank you Redwood! Thanks so much for reading!