Stuck in a Doorway

My daughter freezes in doorways. Lily will sprint from the kitchen, accelerate through the dining room howling “Ramming Speed!” as Robin and I leap out of her way, and then come to a dead stop in the open front door.

She’ll even tilt on the door jam, rocking on her heels.

“Lily, we’re right behind you, just step outside,” we say as we nudge her to keep going.

She has no trouble moving anywhere else. Lily will tear down hallways so fast the tailwind she generates flutters the curtains. She needs a perfect tread on her rubber soles otherwise she’ll skid out while rounding a corner at the playground and come home with torn leggings and bloody gashes on her knees.

Yet when we’re going to school, to dinner or to dance class she will brake at every passage point she encounters. She stops midway through the car door as she’s climbing in, and then pauses again as she’s getting out. She’ll block doorways to restaurants while diners pile up. She’ll stares at escalators and turnstiles.

She doesn’t want to stop, it just happens to her. Something within her forces her to stop and stare at every transition point.

This is where everything changes.

We’re going outside, and it’s happening - now!

The car ride is happening - now.

School is starting now.

Am I ready? Can I do this?

When you’re seven and half, even small changes and transitions are exciting and even overwhelming, and she experiences it more fully.

“We’re going to dance class! This is it! It’s happening now!”

I envy her, because on the same day she pauses at six different doorways, I get so lost in my thoughts I won’t even remember driving to work.

Passages affect all of us, we just don’t experience then as fully as our children do.

It’s always when you’re in at the door that you realize you forgot your jacket, book, file, lunch, keys or phone. I will cross the same threshold two or three times before I feel I’m ready to head out into the world.

Doorways erase memories and trigger memories too -- if you forget why you walked into a room, walk out and come back in again, and the reason for your trip will return to you.

Notre Dame Professor Gabriel Radvansky studies how doorways affect memory. “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” Radvansky explains. “Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.” Some passages are as vivid for me as they are for Lily -- and I’m in one of those doorways now. I have worked in television my entire adult life, but now I’m also writing books, articles, novels, and this blog.

As I transition from one career to another, I am already crossing back and forth through the open door--

Is it happening now? Is this it? Am I ready for this? What am I forgetting? Can I do this?

It may go on for years before cross a definite “event boundary.”

Plus, TV, movies, books, magazines and books are changing so fast I have no idea where I’m going.

But I’m in the doorway now, and I’m feeling the same excitement Lily feels when she stands in our open front door. I’m enjoying this, and I’ll keep you posted as I find my way through!

Gabriel Radvansky was published recently in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.