Tuesday morning, around 2, I got out of bed, because I couldn’t sleep, and looked across to the next bed.

We were staying in a hotel lodge at Kentucky Dam, on Kentucky Lake, in Kentucky, with Trish’s Kentucky family.

The other double bed in the our room had, previously in the night, been occupied by our darling little girl, who had, at one point, sat up in bed and cried for her mommy.

But now, at 2 a.m., she wasn’t there.

She wasn’t in our bed; I would have noticed her feet in my back, and on my head, and across my face.

I walked around to the other side of the bed, and there she was, curled up on the floor in the corner of the wall and the head of the bed.

How sad. She didn’t appear to have fallen, but to have purposefully crawled there, as if seeking sanctuary from a nightmare.

The night before, Ella awoke around 11, and cried for her mom, even after her mom held her and rocked her, and assured her that the woman holding her was her one and only mother, holding her safely. It took 30 minutes to convince her. The previous two nights, at her grandparents, sleeping on a cot in our room, she had also awakened and sat upright in bed for 15, 20 minutes before finally giving up and falling back to sleep.

On vacation (I use the term loosely, because so much emotional and physical work is involved when spending time in close proximity — within 200 miles — of extended family) Ella was cast into a big bed of aunts, a grandmother and one adult female cousin, crawling and pawing and carrying her around and otherwise lavishing attention on her, the likes of which the only child to two relatively reserved people doesn’t normally receive. But the aunts, and the grandmother, are direct from a 1950s musical, with impromptu singing and dancing and senseless merriment.

That’s all well and good. Ella loves the spotlight. And the family is full of love. Although I’ve expressed here before my frustration about their pushing her boundaries.

There were also men around, strange men: her grandfather, who cackles loudly because he can’t hear and continually tries to entice her to come see him; her uncle the redneck with the ex-smoker’s hack; four cousins, 18 to 22 years old, 6′ 2″ to 6′ 8″ tall, who respect her distance but nonetheless try to coax her into playfulness; two other uncles, who are pretty cool about things.

Strange, different, good. Ella is still very clingy, which has started to wear on Trish. But this trip, Ella was also more willing to be carried away by the aunts and the female cousin, and the grandmother (who bated her with licorice).

Ella’s clinginess, which our preschool-addled society says should have waned by now, is a bit frustrating sometimes. Trish can’t do what she wants to, or needs to, with a toddler hanging, literally, onto her neck. And I can’t spend as much quality time with my daughter when she wants most to be with her mom. Not to mention the crimp in our already crimped sex life. We try to teach her to be independent, to soothe herself.

How can a child, not yet 3, soothe herself?

By crawling out of bed and into the tightest, safest corner she could find in the middle of the night. It was instinctual, almost primitive.

I woke up Trish the nurse. I was a little shaken at the sight of my child face-down on a hotel room floor, and she’s not in college yet.

“Ella’s on the floor,” I said. If something were physically wrong with Ella, if she had a gash in her head or a broken limb, Trish, not I, would have know exactly what to do. Trish scooped up the little ball of child and placed her back into bed.

Ella didn’t stir, and she slept until 8 the next morning, which is like 10 a.m. to most people.

The next night, she slept fine, but on the 10-hour drive home, she slept eight hours, which is like three days to most people.

She seems normal. Healthy. Recovered. Soothed.

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