I felt at home in every inch of a twenty-foot eucalyptus bending over the gully bottom behind our house. Too high to jump, I hugged that tree like family, scooting along limbs, petrified of making one deadly mistake that might break my neck. I crawl-walked monkey style, maneuvering my arms and legs around the gnarled cross branch up to my safest nest, carrying my dolls in my teeth, like a wild orphan, looking down at my friend like a giant.
Once I got a vertigo attack and couldn’t move, paralyzed in one of those awful moments, petrified up so high, and started crying for my father.
“Run to my house, get my dad!” my friend Tracy was down below watching, as I strangled the branch for all my life.
Lucky, my father was sober that day, and was the exact grown-up to get me moving because he understood the nature of his children. He ran back up the path wearing tan shorts and sockless loafers with Tracy trailing behind. What relief.
“Okay, honey, we’re going to get you down.” Far below, looking like a tiny elf, he talked me down, inch by inch.
“Come on, Sweetheart, easy, you can scoot, keep moving,” he purred. “Lift your right leg, good, and scooch a little over to that branch.” When I put both feet on the ground, my father gave me the gigantic bear hug I craved.