Monday, March 16, 2009

Sliding down the stairs

For several years when I was very young, we lived in a house in a small town in north-central Missouri. We moved there from my grandparents' farm probably sometime when I was three, but I could have been as young as two. I slept upstairs there with the rest of the family in a converted attic. The bathroom and the living room and the kitchen were downstairs, along with another room.

My little brother was young enough that he crawled around when we first moved there. My mother eventually had my father put a barrier across the stairs, so my little brother couldn't get to them. It was basically just a board, tall enough to prevent him from getting over it, and could be moved out of the way as necessary. Still, I moved to try to push him away from the stairs when he was heading for them.

One day I was going downstairs and had gotten past the barrier, and was on the steps but not very far along. I was walking down and talking to my mother, who was on the first floor a few feet from the bottom of the stairs. Suddenly, somehow, I almost entirely missed a step, hitting just the edge of it with the edge of my heel, which then slid off to the step below. I fell forward with my hands stretched out in front of me, and my whole body fell on the stairs. I slid forward with my head up and my arms straight out in front of me with the palms turned up, my wrists and arms and body sliding along the front edges of the steps, all the way to the bottom. I couldn't stop myself, I just kept sliding. My mother was still there near the bottom, watching. I was terribly embarrassed. I felt that I had failed, that I had done a terribly stupid thing, that it was not something someone my age should do.

I wasn't injured, except for a long scratch on my wrist, I think my right one, going back up probably halfway or more to the elbow. It was really a very minor scratch, but it was further evidence of my failure.

When my father came home from work for lunch, I didn't want him to see it. I held my arm behind my back, even while we sat at the table and ate. He kept turning and looking at me and asking about it. My mother finally said something to him about what happened, something brief and about me being embarrassed by it. I continued to hold my arm behind me, though.

When my father came home that night, I was playing on the floor. He bent down some from several feet away, trying to get a look at me. I didn't try to hide it anymore. It seemed silly to do so by that time. My mother said something to my father about it, and my father asked me something about it. I frowned, not really looking at him, and gave a curt answer, acting like it didn't matter. I didn't want to discuss it, and pointedly concentrated on the toys in front of me.

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