There are more than a few episodes in my personal history which would not have happened as they did, had there not been two fundamental truths in action at the time: the first, that I was the climbing-est child you could ever care to meet, and the second, that I had a profound personal hatred for losing or misplacing things, and would take every possible measure to find any missing item, regardless of personal hazard to life and limb.
I was always very sure of myself as a climber. It never occurred to me that my grip or foothold might fail me, or that the structure on which I climbed might be flimsy and unreliable. On one occasion, in pursuit of a greeting card which I wished to read, I was discovered sitting atop a full-sized refrigerator. On other occasions, I got trapped in a treehouse (unwilling to use the fireman's pole to make my descent) or suspended rope-wise over a lake too deep for me to willingly attempt swimming in it.
More than once, one of my younger cousins would follow me on these errant errands, and one of his child-sized cowboy boots is still wedged irretrievably in the crotch of my grandfather's biggest apple tree, abandoned by a foot which was eager not to be trapped in the same manner. The first time I fell out of a tree myself, my only error was in selecting a partly-rotten branch as my sitting place, and I learned what a fifteen foot descent feels like when encountered flat on one's back. My climbing became more cautious after that, and as I grew older and had growth spurts which added to my weight, I got more and more creative about "scaffolding" for my climbs, employing any available and movable sturdy object to assist me.
This particular story begins, as so many of them do, with something having been lost - or, much more likely, confiscated at my mother's convenience, to remove a noisy annoyance from her life and my possession. It was my Gigapet, a little "digital doggie" on a keychain. It was purple, and I had dubbed it - him - Chance, after the protagonist of the Homeward Bound movie. I was fond of the beastly little thing, but I swiftly grew bored with its demanding squeaks and beeps. The result of this was that my mother was (probably) able to sneakily liberate me of the unused but decidedly bothersome toy, when I was otherwise preoccupied. Easily another year or two passed before I noticed its absence, sometime in the middle of November, a week or two before my birthday that year.
I began my search from the ground up, literally. Inch by inch I examined the single-wide trailer in which my mother, my cat, and I lived, letting no obstacle inhibit the search. Not a kitchen drawer or bathroom cabinet went unexplored, and I received quite the lecture that evening about the dangers of cleaning supplies. I ignored it; my mother had been a custodial worker for longer than I had been alive, and I could already recite forward and back which chemicals are not to be allowed near one another, and just how many nasty ways they could kill me or blind me or make me sick.
Next, I shifted my search up to things at knee and shoulder height. The laundry basket, the closets, every chest of drawers, every shelf in the pantry received my intense scrutiny. It did not matter that none of these was a likely place for my Gigapet to be hiding; I had already long since verified that no toy box contained it. If no rational place held my prize, then only irrational places made sense to hunt. The freezer and the oven, the undersides of couch cushions, my mother's sock drawer, no place was too bizarre or too sacred to be part of my search.
Eventually I concluded that Chance was nowhere on the premises where a child could be expected to reach, and that boiled it all down to a lone culprit: Mum. I knew at this point that if I asked her directly, in her adult perversity she would not tell me where my Gigapet had gone; she certainly could not want it to resurface. Furthermore, there was a good chance that she would no longer even remember where she had put it, if she had not thrown it away entirely. This meant I would have to start searching high as well as low.
Most parts of the trailer, the high shelves were easy to reach with a bench or a chair moved into position. The bedroom closets were accessible by standing on her bed or mine, or by climbing atop the stacked washing machine and dryer. I found countless items which I had not known were "lost," including a couple security blankets my mother had "retired" when I wasn't looking. I resolved to bring these up with her at a later time; to my seven-year-old mind, it was a most grievous and capital offense to hide my blankets from me.
There was only one closet in the entire trailer which presented any difficulty, and because of this, it was the very last place left for me to search. It was in the main hallway, directly outside my mother's bedroom, and the only time when I would be able to access it would be when she was asleep or watching television in the living room. The bathroom was near it, so I contrived to excuse myself to the loo during the evening sitcoms, and make quick work of searching the closet. I would not be able to bring a chair or bench with me, which meant doing this the old-fashioned way: climbing directly on the shelves themselves, and hoping to god that the things held my weight.
I waited until she was entrenched in F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and I made my move. I dashed down the hall and pulled the closet's hanging curtain around me so that it would conceal me somewhat. The shelves were laden with bath towels and a small space heater. I reached up to the highest shelf within my reach, and I stepped onto the lowest shelf, keeping my foot tightly against the wall and my weight as far from the sagging middle of the shelf as possible. The wallpaper under my feet tried to stick to my socks, so I kicked them off quickly and left them stuck to the shelf. I made my way upward methodically, jack-knifing my body at the waist to peer far back into the shelves, a tiny flashlight crimped between my teeth to expand my field of view. Every towel was shifted, lifted, and carefully put back exactly how I found it: I wanted no evidence left of my search.
Periodically I would poke my head back out of the curtain to check the clock on the wall. I had been climbing and hunting the closet for perhaps two full minutes, and that meant I had perhaps another two minutes before the next commercial break. I needed to work fast: if Mum decided to run to the restroom during the break, then I would be caught red-handed, after having been told countless times not to climb inside the house.
I finally made the last of my ascent, and there was, of course, no Gigapet to be found in this closet. There were, however, a pair of hot pink fluffy house slippers, just my size. Oh, dear. I had discovered where Mum was hiding a gift for somebody. Now my curiosity was piqued, the Gigapet virtually forgotten in the face of this new mystery.
I shimmied back down from the closet with the fuzzy slippers in my hand, just as Mum was walking up the hall toward the bathroom.
"Mum, who're these for?"
It was the first time, but certainly not the last, that my own curiosity would prove to be witness against me, revealing my illegal household snooping. I got a spanking and scolding, but I also got hot pink fuzzy slippers for my birthday a few days later, and a real pet for Christmas, an imperious fluffy cat who would grace us with her presence for the next fifteen years, and whose prior peons had named her Veronica.