When I was a cub, I was a somnambulist, One who goes for midnight walks and doesn’t even realise it. It used to really freak out my poor parents.
I was probably around five at the time, and although weird people stealing kids in the night didn’t seem to be much of an issue back in the 70’s, (our back door was never locked at night) a missing child has always been a concern.
One night, Dad found my bed empty and went looking for me, only to find me out in the garden, walking around barefoot under the lemon tree… with muddy feet and muddy pyjama legs.
Back then, My Sister lived in the house next door, and we had a gate between the fence so we could visit each other without having to go into the street and take the long way around.
So on another night, the phone goes at our place, It was my Sister telling Mum that I was banging on her back door, and yes, I was completely asleep.
I’m not sure which night it was, because obviously I have no direct memory of the events in question, but after one nocturnal escapade, I woke up in my Dads arms as he carried me back into bed.
I remember waking up and feeling safe, and asking him what was going on, and he told me, softly, to go back to sleep.
This was one of my fondest memories of my Father.
Mum had had enough, but really wasn’t sure what to do, so she bought a chain for the back door, which is still there today… this was used to make sure I couldn’t get out, apparently I could reach the doorknob at that stage, you know I’ve never really thought about that till now, If I couldn’t reach the doorknob, then I must have been standing on a chair to reach it… I suppose.
Of course the chain didn’t stop me sleepwalking, there was still this need to go outside and do my thing.
So, trapped inside the kitchen on another night, I rifled through the cupboards trying desperately to find a hole that lead out into the garden, to no avail.
My parents heard the pots and pans crashing around on the lino and ran out to see what was going on, just me… I was promptly taken back to bed.
Then in grade three, a camp to Ocean Grove in Victoria was organised, and I wanted to go. Mum had been happy to let me go on all daytime excursions with the School but… with the sleepwalking, things might be a bit iffy.
There was a meeting for worried parents who were about to let their kids go on a camp for the first time, and I remember Mum speaking to our Vice-Principal, Mr Kidd, Who was a great bloke… and he assured Mum that we’d all be locked away safe at night, which we were… this wasn’t a camp with tents, more like a Dormitory, with bunk beds.
She let me go, and there was no problem… as far as I know, I never walked in my sleep again, which in a way is a bit sad somehow, because I was quite fond of my little oddity… although honestly, I suppose it wasn’t the safest thing to do.
Mr Kidd was brilliant too, He would tell us stories around the fireplace in the large hall which was mostly used for eating… it was like Hogwarts without all the finery and the magic. But the food was really good, funny how I remember that.
Years later I heard a story concerning another child and their sleepwalking.
In the 70’s we had a holiday home at St. Leonards in Victoria, and our neighbours were friendly and would ask us in for a cup of tea now and then, their house always seemed to be in a state of being built, rather than done, I think it was something for the Hubby, a builder, to tinker with after retirement.
They had an open fireplace, which was handy as some nights down there were bitterly cold.
The Wife had asked her Hubby to set the fireplace up so all she had to do was come out and light it, to get the house warm before breakfast.
He did this, but when She woke, there was nothing but ash.
This confused her Husband who swore that the fireplace had been loaded with wood the night before.
This happened over several nights.
One night, The Husband had had enough and decided to curl up in front of the fireplace and guard it.
During the night, their Grand Daughter, who would sometimes go with them, appeared… and quietly lit a fire, then sat in a comfortable chair until the fire went out. Then she simply got up and went back to bed.
With this in mind, do think about safety if you have a sleepwalker at your place, Hide matches, poisons and so on,
Make sure doors and windows are locked.
And don’t be afraid to ask a professional about it, should it be giving you a sleepless night worrying about what your kids might be getting up to.
If I can offer any comfort at all, it’s that we generally grow out of it, I did…. I think.
Read Susan Fujikis recent experience with sleepwalking.