Tumbling Down Hard: A True Story

When I was young, young enough to be in school but just barely, I was home alone with my older brother. He is 4 years older than I am, and the only boy in our family. He was then, blonde hair (the kind that darkens when the person grows up), blue eyed and cherub cheeked, which did him no favors in school. People do like to pick on the innocent: looking, acting, of spirit; it doesn’t matter which one you are.

I was a scrappy thing, all wiry and pale, short and auburn haired with green eyes, my eyes seemed to take up most of my face then, it was ridiculous. There were freckles too, all over my face and arms from being in the sun a lot.

Usually, we played outside as to add to my growing freckle collection, but not when my parents weren’t home. Though this was the early to mid 90’s, leaving a first/second grader home alone with a fifth/sixth grader was frowned upon. So we were stuck inside and I was, I believe, being a brat.

I wanted something, something I was not getting so I did what any other child would do; I annoyed the ever loving piss out of my brother. I followed his behind all over that blasted house, but he just wouldn’t give in.

He couldn’t shake me either, I followed him to the bathroom and sang obnoxiously outside the door, I kept him from playing video games, I was unshakeable in the thing I wanted. Which was obviously so important I cannot remember it 2 decades plus later.

Now in order to shake me and gain a moment of peace my brother did the unthinkable: he went upstairs.

Now I know you think I’m crazy but hear me out. We lived in a house built off plan in the 1930s. Nothing was where it should have been. One room lead to another room to another, there were no hallways save one, at the top of a narrow, steep 40 step staircase.

At the top of that staircase were two doors, that lead to attic rooms that held more junk than a hoarder’s paradise. We were NOT allowed up there. Not only were the stairs very steep and slightly irregular, the rooms were so haphazard that if we crawled in we could get stuck or worse, something could fall on us. Being that we were neglected on the regular, that was the scariest part, being trapped completely alone and no one would know.

So I obviously drove my brother to distraction because he climbed up those steep stairs, crawling on feet and hands to keep balance and stood in that short narrow 4 foot wide hallway.

“Katherine, don’t you come up here!” He hollered at me.

As. If.

I was so going up there.

So I did, mimicking the way he crawled up the stairs. Now he was trapped. He couldn’t go down, and he certainly couldn’t risk hiding in either room. My victim had lead himself into the one spot he could not escape from! I would win this thing!

At the top of the stairs my brother knew he was trapped. I was there standing triumphant and blocking all paths to freedom. His face looked panicked and his eyes darted around looking for a weakness and he saw one.

I was so very little in comparison to his frame. He could easily push me aside, hold the bannister firmly, and dash down the stairs! Simple. Grab shoulders, shove to side, I fall back against a door and he could safely flee downstairs.

Except, remember I was a scrappy little thing. He forgot that. He grabbed my shoulders and some innate self defenses kicked in and I shot both hands straight up through his arms and knocked his hands off my shoulders. Triumphantly I looked into my brothers eyes which were watching me in absolute horror.

I lost balance and I fell. Arms out stretched, a silent scream in my throat and easily 12 or more foot drop down the stairs! I should have smashed the back of my head into a step and tumbled down those stairs hard; an unconscious, broken, or possibly dead ball of a girl.

Except it didn’t happen that way. As I fell time seemed to slow. I cannot say that my life flashed before my eyes, what life? I can say that I turned in mid air and something lifted me up gently under the armpits and dropped me, on my feet no less, safely at the bottom of the stairs.

I remember my palms lightly touching the wall for balance and turning around to my brother in complete shock, the same shock I saw mirrored on his face.

I do not remember what happened next. I assume we decided I had done enough and we went into the living room and sat down and got along for the rest of the day.

All I know is it happened and I am not the last air bender.

I like to think my guardian angel took one for the team that day because he or she knew I was eventually going to grow out of my annoying habits.

My brother and I were not so smart as to never be dumb at the top of the stairs…. however, we kept the stupidity to those two rooms or the doorways (eventually we cleaned those rooms out) but never, ever, did we fight at the very top of the stairs.


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