9: Stuck

9: Stuck

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom


A mother is a daughter’s first best friend.

~Author Unknown

My mom says that when I was a toddler, she carried me everywhere on her hip. “You would sit right here and wrap your legs around me like a little koala,” she says. “I had to cook while holding you, vacuum . . . sometimes I even used the bathroom like that because you wouldn’t let me put you down.”

I used to cringe whenever she reminded me of this, especially in front of my friends from high school, but it’s very true. I’ve always been close with my mom, and I love spending time with her. We’re a lot alike, with frizzy auburn hair, freckled skin, and the same goofy sense of humor. Growing up, it was just the two of us, and I always looked up to her. To me, she was not only the coolest mom in the world, but also the most amazing friend.

She taught me all about classic rock, from Pink Floyd to Queen, and let me eat ice cream straight from the carton. She had an endless supply of jokes and knew all about the best rides at Disneyland. She was fun and silly, and worked hard to keep me happy.

As a preschooler, I remember fighting to stay up past my bedtime because I didn’t want to miss any time with her. I would beg her to read me story after story before lights out. Some nights, after I was supposed to be asleep, I would sneak out of bed. I would hide on the stairs and watch the evening news with Mom as she sat on the couch, oblivious to my presence behind her.

One night, when I was about six years old, I tiptoed out of my room and sat on the stairs. I remember thinking, as I sat, that the TV screen looked blurry from my hiding space. It had always looked a little fuzzy from my spot on the stairs, but that night I could barely make out the news anchor. I squinted and then opened my eyes wide, but nothing seemed to work. I leaned forward, trying to get as close as I could by pushing my head against the stair railing. Still, though, the screen didn’t look right. I leaned forward a little more and . . . pop. My head went through the railing to the other side of the staircase.

No big deal, I thought. I’ll just pull it out.

I leaned backward and felt pain on the sides of my head as I pulled against the metal bars. I was stuck!

After another minute of trying, I gave up.

“Um, Mom?” I called out. I knew I would be in trouble for being out of bed, but I had no other choice but to give away my hiding spot.

She looked around, confused.

“I’m up here.”

Mom stood and turned around. My vision was still blurry, so I couldn’t see her face very well, but I’m sure she was disappointed.

“Jilly, what are you doing out of bed?” she said in a stern tone.

“I don’t know,” I said, now embarrassed.

Mom climbed the stairs. “Why are you sitting like that?”

In my mind, I like to imagine I said something cool and sarcastic like, “What, like this? I’m super comfortable,” but instead, I began sobbing as I admitted, “I can’t get out.”

“Really?” she said.


She bent down on the steps to be at my level. “Are you okay?” she said. “Does it hurt?” and finally, “How did you get in there?”

“I couldn’t see the TV, so I leaned forward,” I said through tears.

She was silent for a moment, looking from me to the living room below. “You couldn’t see the TV from here? Maybe we should get you to the eye doctor.”

Great. My head was stuck, I was embarrassed, and now I needed glasses.

I pulled my head back, trying again to free myself, but it still wasn’t budging.

“So you really can’t get out?”

I shook my head back and forth, at least as much as I could considering my limited range of motion.

“Are you sure?”


Mom finally stood up. “I guess we’ll have to call the fire department.”

I didn’t know if this was just a threat, but I was unnerved by the prospect of firemen coming into our home. I imagined reporters catching wind of my embarrassing problem and seeing myself on the evening news the next day, big, burly men in uniforms using a saw to cut apart the stair railing. I was horrified. Panicked, I yanked my head back as hard as I could once more, ignoring the pain. Finally, my head slipped through the metal bars, and I fell back onto the step.

After a moment of shock, I broke into laughter. Mom started laughing, too.

The sides of my head were sore and my ears ached from being folded forward, but I was free!

Mom scooped me up and checked my head for any injuries, both of us giggling as she pushed my hair out of the way to check for bruising.

“I think you’re good as new. I hope you learned something today,” she said, still smiling. “Come on, let’s get you to sleep.”

She walked me upstairs and tucked me in bed again.

That night, I certainly did learn my lesson: not to stick my head through the stair railing (and that I needed glasses). But I didn’t stop sneaking out of bed to watch the news with Mom. I always wanted to spend time with her, and to this day I’m so happy I was able to appreciate her, even back then.

Now in my twenties, I look back and I’m in awe of how well she handled the challenge of being a single mom. She gave me fun memories full of laughter and plenty of ice cream, and even managed to scrape together enough money to take me to theme parks and concerts.

Now I live in a condo on my own, but I’m still very close with her. We talk on the phone most days, or at the very least I’ll send her a text to say “hi.” But at least one evening a week, I drive to my mom’s house and have dinner with her. Then, we sit on the couch and watch the news together.

~Jilly Pretzel

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