The Ladder and The Moon

Part A: Express an early memory:

I must have been about six years old. My family was still living at 526 Hermitage in Deerfield, a not-too-shabby ‘burb about a half-hour north of Chicago. I didn’t have a lot of supervision as a kid, so I would often take off and explore the neighborhood (and sometimes way beyond). I must have been feeling particularly adventurous on this day, because I ended up coming home well after dark. I have no idea what time of the day it was, but I do remember that it was summertime when the sun sets on the later side.

The front door of my house was locked, so I rang the doorbell. My mom wasn’t answering the door. I believe my dad was out of town for work. I stood there for a few minutes ringing the bell and banging on the door. All the lights in the house were out. After awhile, I gave up and went to our neighbor’s house, which had a yard that backed up to ours. The family there, the Norlings, were pretty familiar with my family dynamics by this point (i.e. my mom had a really bad drinking problem), and Mr. Norling was very happy to help me out.

We walked around to his garage, and he pulled a big wooden ladder from the rafters, then ambled back through the yards. Mr. Norling propped the ladder against the front of my house with its top near the second floor bedroom window. At the time, I figured this was purely to try to wake my mom up to let me in the house, but looking back I figure this was also a sort of well-being check. By this time, five or ten other neighbors had gathered in our lawn to see what was going on. Mr. Norling banged on the window to wake up my mom, who I can only assume by her history was passed out drunk.

To be totally honest, I have no idea how this story ended, which implies to me that it’s almost not that important how it ended. Maybe my mom miraculously woke up and let me in the door. Maybe the Norlings let me stay over at their house (it wouldn’t have been the first or last time). I simply don’t know.

Part B: Why do you remember this so well? Try connecting one or more emotions to this memory:

At first I thought this memory came to mind simply because it’s a little sensational. Nobody answers the door at my house when I come home… neighbor has to get ladder… other neighbors gather in the lawn to survey the scene… but I feel this formative memory must speak to something deeper about myself and how this event affected me.

I think this episode contributed to my emotional self-sufficiency. On the other side of the coin, it probably explains why I have problems connecting with others emotionally. The skewed takeaway was that I couldn’t ever depend on people. I find writing exercises like this very useful. Thinking about the source of my intimacy issues may help me to dismantle them and rebuild.

As far as emotions associated with the story? Since forever all I’ve felt was embarrassment. Having to bother Mr. Norling. Seeing all those people in our lawn- an odd mixture of judgmental and concerned. Now I see there must have been other emotions going on in me, despite what my tough-as-nails 6 year-old self felt safe feeling (let alone displaying). Fear. Sadness. Anger?


I wrote this as an exercise for the Pixar / Khan Academy “Storytelling in a Box” course.

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