When I was around six or seven years old, my father was still building our house. It looked kind of like a house from the outside, but there were still a lot of things missing. We had windows, but no interior doors. We had floors but no interior walls, and no stairs anywhere. We got in the front door by way of a stack of cement blocks, piled neatly with their open ends up, holes filled with sand. Ladies who wore heels complained a lot about those steps when they came to visit us. We got from the main floor of the house to the basement by way of an 8 foot rung ladder.
One summer day I was wandering around our house looking for something to do. My mom was outside, doing laps around the house with my sister Veronica in the stroller, and my sister Bernadette holding onto the stroller practicing her walking skills. My dad was at the back door of the house, in his shorts, t-shirt and work boots, fitting and installing the door sill. There was nothing for me to do. I decided to play in the cellar. I loved our cellar. It had no floor yet, and so it was full of sand. It was a lot like being at the beach in your own home, and if you ran around a lot down there, you could also make a dust fog that we kids thought was great, but the parents HATED. I went to where the cellar stairs were going to be, and I carefully turned around and lowered down one foot at a time to meet the round rungs of the ladder. I held the edge of the floor with my hands and backed down a step. I was familiar with this process - I had already done it dozens of times.
I must have fiddled around too much with my feet. Suddenly, the part of the ladder that had been leaning on the floor I had just left was no longer there. It must have sunk down just far enough into the sand so that it was no longer tall enough to lean on the floor above. I felt the ladder tilt away from my now dangling feet... I saw it in slow motion… falling, falling... until Pfit! It landed with a soft thud and puff of dust in the sand below. Luckily, my hands were still in contact with the floor. I looked down at the ladder lying uselessly on the sand far beneath me, and then I looked up at my hands above me, grasping at the flat floor I had just stepped off of, and I did the only thing I could think of..
“DADDYDADDYDADDY!!!I screamed for my dad. I heard him drop his tools at the other end of the house and come running. It took him literally 3 steps to get to me. I counted them… ONE and he was almost though the kitchen, all the way from the back door, TWO and he was halfway through the playroom - almost there! THREE and he was crouching low in front of the stairwell and lifting me up by the wrists. He placed me gently back on the floor.
“Are you ok?” he asked me. He knew I was. He knew that I was just scared because I had hung off the edge of the world for a second. I shook my head, yes, yes, I was ok.
Years and years later, I asked him, “Dad, do you remember that time the ladder fell out from underneath me when I was going down into the basement?”
“OH yeah,” he said.
“I just remember that it only took you like, 3 steps to get there,” I told him.
“Kids yell all the time,” he said, “but sometimes…”
“Yes,” I said, “I know exactly what you mean.”
That day, I just remembered that my dad had gone back to his work, and I went outside and found my mom and told her the story, but I always thought to myself, 'Wow, I never realized how fast Daddy could run.'