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Saturday, November 1, 2008

I'll Give You Halloween Terror

Our neighborhood has a pre-trick-or-treating cookout every year. Hot dogs, chips and warm cheese dip, apple slices, donuts, brownies. Last year, it was frigid on Halloween; before dusk even fell, the temperatures were in the low 30s. This year, we got smart and made two gallons of hot chocolate. Of course, this year, it was in the upper 60s. So warm that Daughter (who was well supplied with tights, leg warmers, turtle necks, sweat shirts, and other pink items to layer under her princess dress) wore nothing but a t-shirt under her costume. And we have over a gallon of hot chocolate left over.

The neighborhood children have a blast at this party -- running and chasing with light sabers and swords, wearing funny wigs and wings. They climb and clamber on the swingset, race around the yards, eat donuts, and laugh. For a while, there were about half a dozen of them climbing a tree.

This tree.

It's a big spruce (or perhaps some other kind of evergreen) -- one of those with branches close together, nicely parallel to the ground, easy to climb like a ladder.

The children were clustered about about 10 feet off the ground. They were all elementary schoolers. They were practiced tree climbers. They were hanging out, sensibly in the lower branches. I was helping my neighbor string donuts on a long red yarn for a donut eating race , when I heard Son calling out "Daddy, Daddy!" I looked over at Husband. "That's Son shouting," I said. He sounded like he might need help, but I couldn't see where he was.

Besides, I was busy with donuts.

"Daddy, DADDY!"

I started looking around for him, unable to figure out where exactly the voice was coming from.

"Daddy! Look at me!! Look how HIGH I am!!!"

And then. Then, I looked at the tree.

There was the cluster of children, 8 or 10 feet off the ground, but no Son. I looked above their heads, and saw no Son.

I raised my eyes further.

And further.

And further.

And further.

Until I finally saw Son. He literally could not have climbed any higher in the tree because there were no more branches above his head to hold onto. There he was, small and bright in his Spiderman costume, red-and-blue legs stark against the dark bark and evergreen needles. My little four-year-old Son. Forty or fifty feet in the air.

I dropped the donuts I was stringing and sprinted to the tree. Somewhere along the way, I dropped my camera. Husband was already plucking kids out of the lower branches. Other adults were shouting "everybody out of the tree!" I was grabbing children left and right to get them out of my way so I could start up to my little guy. Son was already starting to make his way down. I bolted up as fast as I could. So did Husband. I reached Son first (he'd already made it a good 15 feet down). "What a good climber you are!" I said, much more brightly than I felt. The last thing I wanted to do was freak him out and make him too nervous to climb down.

I helped guide his feet to branches, worked him down the tree to Husband, and followed them safe to the ground.

Once firmly back in the grass, Son burst into heaving sobs. We sat together in the grass, me shivering with fear of what might have been, whispering into his ears telling him to breathe. Deep breaths. In and out. Just breathe.

With the resilience of children, he recovered after a few minutes (and with the promise of a donut eating race), and then dashed off for his treat.

By contrast, it took me nearly an hour to feel like I was done involuntarily shaking.

For a sense of scale, check this out:

Note the large swingset in the foreground, dwarfed by the tree. Look carefully, and you'll see where I've scrawled a little blue-and-red stick figure to give you a sense of the speck that was Son, and precisely WHERE in the tree I first saw him. My Son: strong enough to climb a ladder-like tree, young enough to think blithely that one should climb anything one can climb, simply as high as it goes.

I thank every power in the world that after this incident, I was still able to take this photo:

I shudder to think what could have happened to that precious face.

And trust me, he understands now that he is never again to climb such a tree.


Aimeepalooza said...

Baby G climbed a tree stand...not that high but still. So scary!!!! Glad everyone is okay and he recovered emotionally. I assume it will take you a bit longer to get over the sight of him that high.

Tooj said...

Boys and no fear....it's great that he is bold and self-assured. Now we just gotta work on that "judgment"...that always eludes little boys. :) Good luck! I have my own 4 year old to contend with...

Lisa said...

Thank God he is safe! Give him lots of hugs and kisses for us.

Ree said...

Oh no MommyTime! How scary...even for Halloween.

Huckdoll said...

Oh wow! Now, I bet he will either take it to new heights when he's a little older or keep his feet planted firmly on the ground!

When I was little, I was hanging onto a tree branch way up high and it snapped and I fell quite a ways. I've always kept my feet on the ground since...even flying scares the crap out of me and I wonder if it was from that fall.

Fawn said...

Ooooh, that is NOT the fun kind of scary that Halloween is supposed to be about. I'm already a hormonal emotional wreck, so I'm am SO glad your post had a happy ending.


Mr Lady said...

Because it's not MY kid, I can say this. THAT KID ROCKS.

My brother and I had this tree across the street from us that we climbed obsessively. Before I was 6, we could both reach the top. Yes, we both fell out, and no, it wasn't that high, but still I remember that, and it's one of my favorite memories of childhood.

In a week, he's going to be TOTALLY proud of himself. Now go wrap it in barbed wire so he never climbs it again!

Deb said...

ugh, i would have been beside myself . you handled it a lot better than i would have. i don't think i would have been calm.

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

But he was just being Spider Man!

I am deathly afraid of heights so I can just imagine what must have been going through your mind and how you were feeling. So glad it all turned out all right!

Desiree Fawn said...

Haha wow. Fabulous climbing skills indeed ^_^ Thank goodness he's alright :D
Hope you're alright too!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

That is INCREDIBLE! I can't believe that happened! I had to show my husband. He usually rolls his eyes and look very put upon when I ask him to read a "really good blog post," but this one had him glued.

I'm SO glad that everyone made it out of the tree in one piece.

A cautionary tale indeed....

MultiplesMommy said...

Oh Lordy, Lordy! I had tears in my eyes by the end of the post. I am SO GLAD that he didn't get to the top and freeze, since that would have been very hard to get him out of. Sending you lots of hugs and kisses, and a strong finger-wag for Son!

LceeL said...

That's scary. So glad that it ended well. You climbed that tree! What a real, fantastic, brave and incredible Mom you are!

Tracey said...

Holy Shit. Thank God he's ok, and that you had the presence of mind to stay calm until AFTER he was safe. I know mothers that freak out and are of no use when their children are hurt. It's painful to watch them break down instead of do what needs to be done.

Heather of the EO said...

Oh. NO. I'm so sorry. I would haved passed out, I'm sure of it. I'm so glad he's okay!

Auds at Barking Mad! said...

Holy #!@*!

I can't imagine the adrenaline rush involved, for all of you. How completely terrifying. Nor can I imagine the terror you must have felt once your eyes came to rest upon just how high he was. *shivers*

Angela said...

OMG, way to give you poor parents a heart attack! Glad it all turned out alright. And that you didn't scream at him like I would've...

supertiff said...

see, this is why it's good that i don't have a child. i don't think i could climb a tree if i tried! although, i hear motherhood gives women superhuman status, so maybe i'd be okay.
seriously, though.
this is the scariest halloween story.

pb&j in a bowl said...

Wow. That would have absolutely terrified me and I probably would have forbidden ever going outside again, to top it off.

MommyTime said...

Thanks so much for all your moral support and sympathy. It was really scary (he still tears up every time I mention it), but thankfully he's fine.


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