I was 3 years old, in preschool at a family co-op on the Stanford Campus. At the time of the earthquake I was on the rickety, wooden deathtrap of a play structure that sagged when too many kids were on it at once and in retrospect shouldn’t have been able to withstand a strong wind, much less a 5.9 earthquake. (Unsurprisingly, in the ’80s everyone was less concerned with safety.) Like so many play structures, it was built to resemble a castle, and the vertical poles that held it up were carved into gentle points at the top – all the better for defending against an imaginary siege, perhaps.
When the shaking started I was on the top level of the castle, getting ready to go down the slide. I don’t remember being afraid or having any awareness that something major was happening, but I do have the most vivid visual memory of my pudgy baby hands grasping the poles on either side of the slide, and watching them sway in front of me.
In my mom’s retelling, she was so worried about finding me bewildered and traumatized by the event. After all, at 3 years old it’s a lot to make sense of. But by the time she made it from her office across campus to the co-op to pick me up, I was back on the slide, shrieking with glee. All in a day’s adventure at the castle, I guess.