I had one of those crazy dreams last night where something frightful happens and I try to yell but there’s no sound. Suddenly someone’s pressed the mute button. So I tell myself, in my dream, that I’m going to have to yell loudly enough to wake myself up. But the harder I try to yell the more difficult it becomes to open my mouth and breath; it’s like someone’s sitting on my chest and holding my jaw closed.

The dream involved changing the locks in our house to keep certain people away. (The only darkly humorous part of the story is that these people represented a nearby university with a really bad football team; yesterday was college football’s opening day). All the locks are changed and we’re safe inside until a white, upper-middle class kid, wearing an oxford and khakis, suddenly appears at the front door. He laughs and sneers and jams a key into our lock … and it works. He’s trying to open the door, someone else, on the inside, on my side, is holding it shut and I’m trying to yell, “Change the lock! Change the lock!”

I sprang awake, exhausted, as if I’d been pulled from one dimension into another. Trish was sound asleep.

This served as a warmup for the next set of nightmares.

Around midnight I heard a loud BUMP from down the hall. Was it part of my old dream? Was the college student back with new keys?

No, it was from Ella’s room. I waited a second, then heard Ella whimpering.

I reached over and shook Trish and said, “help!” then dashed down the hall. (This morning Trish said, “Why did you say, help?’.” Beats the hell out of me, except I figured something horrible had happened, in which case a nurse is always handy, and I couldn’t get out, “help, nurse!”)

I opened Ella’s door slowly, in case she was trying to walk out, and saw her sitting on her knees beside her bed. The whimper was growing into a wail. She had a Harrison Ford look, scared and pissed off at the same time, and also a little like Willem Dafoe in “Platoon.”

I scooped up Ella and held her close, and her head fell onto my shoulder.

Trish rushed in and immediately grabbed the little wooden baby crib where Purple Baby sleeps, beside the head of Ella’s bed. Trish said, “Did she hit the crib?”

What? For crying out loud. I hadn’t even thought of that. Yeah, I bet she did, although I’d found her closer to the foot of her bed. But, yeah, the way my night’s going, sure, she rolled off the bed, fell six inches, hit the crib, bounced three feet away and landed on her knees.

The scene in “Million Dollar Baby” where Mo Cuishle falls and her neck snaps on the stool started playing and replaying in my head. And because Trish mentioned it, and I imagined it, Ella’s neck definitely hit the crib. She’s obviously paralyzed, or maybe brain dead already.

Trish moved the crib and Ella reached over and latched onto her mom. OK, so she moved. No paralysis. Oh, and right, she’s crying; that’s a good sign. We laid her in her bed and Trish curled up beside her.

I turned to go and then thought, she might be blind! (Why? By now you should know that rationality wasn’t tottering on the window sill; it had flown out the door and around the block.) Ella had reached out for Trish but maybe she hadn’t seen her as much as felt her. So I walked back and looked at Ella. She looked at me, then at the wall, then her eyelids drooped slowly and closed. She is blind! Isn’t that what blind people do?

I reined in the irrationalities enough to walk back to bed and climb in. I started reassuring myself: She’s not blind! Don’t be ridiculous. She’s not paralyzed, and she has good use of her lungs.

But last weekend I watched “Shortcuts” and Andie McDowell made the fateful mistake of letting her son go to sleep after he was hit by a car. We shouldn’t let Ella sleep! We should keep her awake!

I don’t know how much of the rest of the night I spent thinking about Ella and whether or not she was blind and/or paralyzed, or how much energy I spent telling myself to settle down and stop being paranoid. I drifted in and out of sleep, skirted a few nightmares and circled around to reality.

I sure was happy this morning when, around 7, I heard the familiar slamming of Ella’s door, the creek of ours opening, then its slamming, and the patter of footsteps to Trish’s side of the bed. I looked down and there she was, whole, evidently with sight and full use of her limbs. I managed to keep myself from performing a physical examination.

I  asked her about it later. “Do you remember falling off your bed last night.”


“Did it, hurt?”


Easy for her to say.