March 21, 2011
Bird's Eye View



         Kacie at Greenwater, 1987Kacie, Christmas Eve 2011

My Kacie

Left:  Camping in Greenwater, WA, 1987
Right: Christmas Eve, 2010




Lately I've been thinking about Greenwater, and about the camping trip we took there during the summer of 1987.  

Do you remember that weekend?  You were four; your sister was a year and a half older; your baby brother stayed home with Daddy, while the three of us "girls" went off on a weekend adventure with family friends.  We camped in the woods, next to the river, and spent three days fishing, collecting pine cones, going for long walks along the riverbank, riding four-wheelers with Terry and Rickey. After dinner, we roasted marshmallows over the campfire.   At night, we slept in Tammy and Terry's big RV  ...  you in a top bunk, Jamie and I smooshed together in a bottom bunk below you.  Jamie was originally offered the upper bunk, since it was slightly bigger  --  as was she  --   and would have afforded her more wiggle-room.  But when bedtime rolled around, the first night we were there, she suddenly decided she was "afraid" of the height.  You, on the other hand, clambered up there like a little monkey, without hesitation, and claimed the bird's-nest bunk as your own.   I felt some normal maternal trepidation about you sleeping up there by yourself  --  What if you needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?  What if you had a nightmare?  What if, god forbid, you fell out of the bunk?  --   but you were happy as a clam, snug as a bug, and (most importantly, it seemed at the time) sound asleep within thirty seconds of your head meeting your pillow.  Everything seemed perfectly fine.

Until, of course, you actually DID fall out of the bunk.

I can still hear the sickening 'thunk' you made, as you hit bottom.  It's funny how I knew exactly what had happened, even before you started to cry  ...  I was coming out of a dead sleep,  the interior of the RV was dark as a tomb, it took a couple of seconds to even remember where I was  ...    but I instantly knew that you had fallen, I knew that you were in trouble, and I was fumbling my way in the darkness to you before you'd even drawn enough breath to scream. Luckily, as falls go, this one turned out to be fairly minor  --  we're probably talking five feet, tops, and you landed mostly on the end of my bed, not on the floor, so your fall was at least partially cushioned  --  but it was still scary as hell, for you AND for everyone else in that RV.  Terry and Tammy, sleeping in the back, heard the commotion and scrambled to turn on the lights.  There you were, sprawled face-up across the end of my bunk, with one arm and one leg hanging over the edge, screaming your lungs out.  I folded you in my arms and held you tight for a while, until the sobbing lessened, until the shuddering stopped, until we'd all caught our breath and regained some sense of calm.   I quietly examined you, top to bottom, but there didn't appear to be any broken bones, any head injuries, any bleeding  ...  nothing much worse, in fact, than a hiccup in an otherwise happy adventure.

"Scoot over," I said to a sleepy/grumpy Jamie.  "Sissy's going to sleep with us for the rest of the night."

But you weren't having it.  "Noooo!" you shrieked, your cheeks still damp with tears, and you scrambled out of my arms and up the folding ladder, back to your little bird's nest, and there you slept for the rest of the night, and for the two nights that followed, peacefully and without incident, while below I kept the Sleepless Mother's Vigil until dawn each night for the remainder of the camping trip.

I've had decades  --  literally, decades  --  to think about that weekend, and about your plunge from the bird's nest.  As always, I  usually turn the events around and make them all about me, and about my shortcomings as your mother, then and in the years that followed.  Why did I allow you to sleep on that top bunk in the first place?  You were four years old, forcryingoutloud.  Why didn't I force you to sleep in the bed with me and Jamie? Why didn't I squeeze my own fat self into that tiny top bunk myself, and put the two of you together in the safety of the lower bunk?  

And then, when you hit bottom: why wasn't I right there to catch you?

But here's the thing. Turning that weekend around and making it about me, and about all the ways I have failed you over the years, actually does you a disservice. It overlooks the fact that you were the one who claimed that top bunk, for one thing, without hesitation or fear.  It overlooks the fact that you were the one brave enough to climb right back up there, even after hitting bottom  ...  that you were the one with the nerve, the confidence, the outright fucking GUTS to pick yourself up from the bottom and climb back to the top.   If it had been up to me, you would have been stuck in that bottom bunk for the rest of the camping trip, squished between your grumpy/sleepy sister and your nervous/sweaty mother.  You made the choice to climb back to the top all on your own, and you were successful, and it had very little to do with me or my parenting skills (or lack thereof), and everything to do with you and all the things that make you the person you are.

I realize that as anecdotal metaphors go, this one is pretty damn obvious
, given the current situation.  All I can tell you is that sometimes hitting bottom is hitting bottom, whether it's falling out of a bunk during a camping trip when you're four years old, or trying to reclaim your life and your sobriety as an adult. This, at least, is something I know about.  Hitting bottom sucks. Hitting bottom hurts.  Hitting bottom is embarrassing, and sometimes it makes you question everything about yourself and your life and the people you love, and it takes a lot of time and hard work to fix, and most of it is not very much fun.

But here is the other thing I know: that if anyone, and I mean ANYONE, has the sheer fucking guts to dust herself off and climb back up to a bird's-eye view  ...  it's you.

Happy Birthday, my dear, darling, much-cherished daughter. You can do it. I believe in you. I love you.  

xox

Your Nice Mommy








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