I was five. She was seven. We lived on the Marine Corp base in Quantico, Virginia. The buildings were each four stories tall with two apartments on each floor. But, they were built on a slope, so our first floor apartment was three stories up from the back alley/driveway.
The apartments on base had all been given a fresh coat of paint at the beginning of summer*. But, most of the screens had only been set back in place - not latched. Sadly, that fact was discovered when a little girl two buildings down from us fell out of her apartment window to the driveway below. She was in a body cast for the entire summer. I can still see her mom and her twin sister pulling her to the park in a red wagon with her casts propped on pillows.
Our mom told us to stay away from the windows until she and my dad had time to check the screens. As warnings often are with children, that particular one was met with our solemn agreement... and promptly forgotten.
The same day, a babysitter was watching us.** We went into our bedroom to play. Brandy sat down in the chair at the desk... in front of the window. I climbed up on the desk. I sat in front of her, facing her with my legs stretched out straight. I leaned against the screen of the open window. And, it popped out from behind me. (Even as I type this, my hands sweat.)
My brain remembers the next moments in slow motion. I fell out of the window. I felt my body sliding off of the desk. I felt my back pressed against the bricks on the outside of the building. With my head upside-down, I watched the screen fall three stories to the ground. I watched it bounce on the pavement below. And, I felt Brandy's hands holding my feet.
Her little seven-year-old brain knew she needed to grab my feet "or [I] would die." My little five-year-old brain thought, "I hope she's not mad at me, 'cause I really want her to pull me back in." And, then I felt myself sliding back across the desk as she pulled me in the window by my stocking feet.
We reacted to the events that had just transpired as any self-respecting child would - we tried to figure out how to keep ourselves out of trouble. After all, we had gone near the window when we'd been told not to. So, we ran down to the driveway, retrieved the screen and hid it in the garage. We swore to each other that we would never tell what had happened.
That lasted until our mom got home and Brandy sang like a canary. I guess her age advantage gave her enough perspective to realize the seriousness of what had happened. Me? I was just amazed we didn't get in trouble - even though the screen was bent! (We did get hugged a lot, though. ;)
Anyway, this week the kids in our Sunday School class informed me that I owe my sister a "Life Debt."
A life debt is a cultural phenomenon in which someone whose life is saved or spared by another becomes indebted or in some way connected to their savior. A life debt sometimes involves servitude, possibly until the indebted can return the favor. It may involve some spiritual or mystical connection between the two. -Wikipedia
Sorry, Bran. We're going to have to stick with the "spiritual or mystical connection." I've got way too much going on to add "servitude" to my list of responsibilities. Love you, though. And, thanks again for saving my life.
I don't know exactly what year this was, but it's probably
pretty close. At least those look like 1979 clothes!
P.P.S. I'm scared of heights. Or more specifically, I'm scared of falling from heights. Surprised?
P.S. I have a seven-year-old. I firmly believe a seven-year-old could only react that quickly (and hold on to the feet in the socks instead of just coming away holding socks) with the help of an angel.
*In varifying these facts with my mom, it seems my recollection of the time of year may be inaccurate. My mom seems to believe (and let's be honest, she was the adult in this situation - so, she's probably right) that this was all early fall. I remember warm weather and broken girls being pulled to the park in wagons. I thought it was summer. Please allow a little leniency for the recollections of a five-year-old.
**What a terrible babysitter!