One of my earliest memories is of a panic attack. Or maybe a panic tantrum would be a better description.
The wooden bars of my crib reached up into the darkness, and moonlight through the window above cast downward shadows on the faces of stuffed animals on a wall shelf; making their eyes look hollow and the mouths gaping open like they wanted to jump down and feast. Then the footie pajamas, and how they constricted my body like an ace bandage that’s been wrapped to tight.
Of course, all of these were of my imagination. Still, I began to jump wildly; looking for a way up and over the fence. Spurred by my confines, and feeling an almost over-powering need to escape. I jumped and bounced, trying to get the momentum, until my mother came to my side and reminded me that I wasn’t the only one who should be sleeping and that I would de well to stay quiet. Of course my explorer’s mind made the only inevitable conclusion: my escapes were going to have to be sneakier. Planned. Deliberate.
Later – after my mastery of climbing the crib fence was rendered moot by my transition to single-spaced bed – I staged my most daring escape to date. As my mother raced around Consumer’s (a local grocery store) on her lunch break I made the decision to go walkabout. It was hardly a difficult choice, as I felt confined in the store and had a view of the bright blue through the sliding doors. Almost as though tethered to the wind, my body was pulled out of the doors and my focus was fixed only on the journey at hand. I watched one foot step before the other and didn’t think of anything behind me. Did not think of my mother, or her reaction. I could only imagine going forward.
Later that day (it was summer, and I remember quickly succumbing to the heat and my missed afternoon nap) I called home to request pickup. My folks were rightfully out of their minds with anger and worry, and I got a pretty good hiding. But it was worth it. Even in the midst of a well-deserved spanking it was worth it. Not only had I tasted free air, but I hadn’t been captured. I had gone out and come back of my own accord, though it would be weeks before my punishment was over and months before I could be trusted. And through each assigned task as punishment, for each weed I pulled, gutter I cleaned and floor I scrubbed, I still thought that the expedition was worth the cost.
I still do.