I'd catch a little movement out of the corner of my eye and turn to see Elena flying towards me calling my name. I'd catch her and hug her and then tell her she needed to warn me before jumping at me. What if I hadn't seen her in time to catch her.
But I always did.
There's an exercise that is used at team building workshops that you often see parodied on sit coms. One person stands a few feet in front of another. The person in front is supposed to fall backwards and the person in back is supposed to catch them.
The portrayal of this in situation comedies is as formulaic and unfunny as their too frequent portrayal of a pregnant woman stuck in an elevator during a power outage. The person in front has difficulty trusting that the person in the back will really catch them. The person in the back promises that they will. And after many false attempts the person in front finally is able to trust they will be caught and falls back. Unfortunately, the person in the back has turned to help someone with something or tie their shoe or take a cell phone call.
Now the writers are able to extend the joke and provide the happy resolution we all hunger for. The person in the back, often with the help of the workshop leader, begs for another chance promising they will be there this time. This allows the person in the front to bring up all of those times the person in the back let them down in the past. The person in the front agrees to try one more time. Depending on whether the writers are going for comedy or a happy resolution. Either the person in the back catches the falling friend or they stand up at the last minute to take care of something and again leave their friend to fall to the ground.
Elena was too short to fall backwards and have anyone catch her. She would climb on furniture and jump. She'd climb up on the kitchen counter every morning to get her breakfast cereal from the cabinet. Every morning I would grab her under her armpits and lower her back to the ground with the cereal box in hand. Sometimes she'd just climb on the kitchen counter to jump into my arms.
Usually she'd climb onto the arm of a chair or sofa and jump at me or Kim. We'd be standing talking to each other or to someone else and she would jump at us and we'd catch her. It's one of those things you do almost without noticing.
One day we missed. It could have been Kim. It could have been me. But whoever Elena had jumped at, didn't turn around in time. She bounced off of our back and dropped the foot to the ground.
She was very hurt. Not physically. She was hurt that we hadn't caught her. We reminded her of the thousands (probably tens and we probably told her millions) of times we had told her to warn us before jumping. She still felt that we should have caught her.
Til the day she died, Elena still took her leaps of faith. Sometimes she warned us she was coming but often times she didn't. We caught her when we could.