Tuesday, May 19, 2009
My son is a dedicated rock climber. He has climbed El Capitan six times. At 3300 feet, it’s the highest vertical peak in the United States. This is a video of him slack lining. It’s like tight rope walking, only on a line with play in it. The line is about 1 ½ inches wide. Rock climbers slack line to increase their balance, agility and core strength. My son is very good at it. His pants were falling down and his dog was barking in the background, but nothing broke his concentration. Concentration is everything in rock climbing. Reach is also an imperative. The ability to extend the arms and body to the next crack in the wall can make or break a climb. I’ve never measured my son’s arms, but I think they are longer than average. He has tremendous reach. My arms are short, so it wasn’t my genes or ‘the nature’ that gave him the reach. It was the nurture. My children are both very courageous people. They have each climbed beyond their own fears to do bigger and better things in their lives. As you can see in the photograph, my daughter wants to be an astronaut. Reaching for the stars or a crack in a wall takes guts. They have internalized the belief that nothing is beyond their reach.
The Christmas that I was seven, my father gave to me a set of tiny houses. They were painted bright, primary colors and came in their own mesh bag. After school vacation, I took my gift to school to the class Show and Tell. The little houses seemed pretty lame compared to what the other kids brought. But, I was proud of them because my father had given them to me. He thought they were great and so I thought they were great. Until I saw Yvonne Murdock’s pink pencil box. Yogi Bear was on the lid. It had a row of colored pencils in the rainbow’s spectrum. I loved that pencil box. I wanted that pencil box. So, when Yvonne wanted to see my little houses, I said only if I could look at the pencils in her box. She agreed. I didn’t dare take the pencils out, but carefully rolled them back and forth with my finger. Yvonne dumped the houses onto her desk then she stacked them on top of each other. When they fell, she stacked them again. One fell on the floor. Ignoring it she demanded, “Trade!” I wanted that pencil box so badly I could taste it. But I knew if I gave up the houses it would disappoint my father, wound him even. Yvonne snatched her pencil box making me jump. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. “Here, take it!” Shoving the box at me, she grabbed up the houses and shoved them into the mesh bag. The pencil box was in my hands. Mine! Its pinkness tingled up my arms. I didn’t know what fainting was about, but I felt like I was going to. I spent the rest of the day carefully opening and closing the box and mooning over the pencils. I was so excited about the pencil box that I forgot about my father. His feelings had disappeared like fog. When I got home, carrying the box like the Gift of the Magi, I rushed to show him. “Look what I traded with Yvonne,” I beamed. Too late, I saw the curtain of disapproval lower across his face. I’d done something horrible; I was horrible. Glowering at the pink pencil box, he said “Return that to her. Bring back the set of houses.” It was not negotiable. That night, I cried into my pillow. I couldn’t look at the pencil box. The next day, I took it back to school and told Yvonne I had to have the houses back. She had brought them to school and surprisingly, didn’t argue, but exchanged them for the box. There was one house missing. When I got home, I didn’t say anything to my father; I just handed over the bag of houses. For a split second, I hoped that the courage it took to ask for them back would impress him. He said nothing. He opened the bag and took out each little house. One by one, he examined them. One by one, he placed them in a neat row on top of the door frame to the dining room. Neither of us said a word. They were never mentioned again. For as long as I can remember they stayed there, forever just out of my reach.