First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript August 15, 2014
Over the years, Regular Readers may have picked up on the fact that occasionally I freak out in height-related situations. One of my very earliest columns detailed my trip up the Sydney Harbor Bridge (spoiler alert: I survived). On the ground, in my head, I know I’m ok. But there’s no way to mind-over-matter something that doesn’t matter to the terra firma mind. Put me up the Statue of Liberty, or the Bunker Hill Monument, with their spiral staircases of horror, and you will see me come undone. Put me alongside the Grand Canyon and you will witness me nearly feral.
So, when my parents gifted our older daughter with an ‘Extreme Ropes Course Adventure’ I was cool with it since she is not afraid of heights and is part orangutan. But then the fine print: an adult had to accompany her. And lo, my father was the family photographer and my mother had a torn knee ligament. This left me: the mom not afraid of heights in theory . . . only in reality.
We learned in our safety lesson that we would progress through increasingly difficult courses up in the trees using zip lines, wire bridges and other suspended structures, all while clipped into our perfectly safe, perfectly engineered, dual carabiner system.
”Do you get that?” I whispered into my daughter’s ear. “Do you get the clipping sequence? Clip one off and clip it to the next wire BEFORE you unclip the second one?”
”Yes Mommy!” my daughter answered quickly, trying to listen to the instructor and not me.
”Good, because, just to be clear, there are no second chances! You make a mistake on this and you will plummet!” I can be a very sweet mother. Or not.
”I get it Mommy!” she hissed back trying to actually hear the teacher and not her increasingly high-pitched mother.
We began to climb up and I realized instantly that it was insane. My daughter was ten! And they trusted her to clip and unclip herself to little wires millions of feet in the air?
“Whoohoo!! Mommy this is the BEST!” and just like that, she zipped off the platform and vanished into the tree branches.
I panicked. She was gone! I’d actually have to unfreeze and move. I clipped and unclipped as quickly as I could while also being obsessively methodical and double checking things multiple times. Then I stepped off the platform with barely a glance down, or a thought to the height, only focused on my daughter’s remerging shape among the leaves.
She was waiting for me, properly clipped off the zip line and onto the platform wire, with a beaming smile.
”That was awesome!!”
I nodded curtly while scanning over her carabiners, checking that she wasn’t twisted, checking . . . and she was off again.
Off into the trees, across some barely-there bridge made of invisible nothingness over a chasm of doom. And so, therefore, I followed. We spent the next nearly three (three!!) hours in such fashion. She’d zip off and I’d follow. She’d survive and so would I.
And I realized at some point, halfway down a wire, climbing over a hula hoop, nearly level with the edge of the earth’s atmosphere that I was smiling. Mayhap, I was even rocking the ropes course with my crazy 40-year-old skills (or you know, not peeing my pants).
I had no time to be scared of heights because I was so vastly more afraid of my daughter falling to her death. Who knew bigger fears can overrule lesser ones?
I’m not inclined to test out my new phobia-fixing-theory say, ever. We had a great time zipping and swinging and not hurtling to our death, and that’s all I can be certain of. Well that, and the fact that you probably won’t get a postcard from us at the Grand Canyon any time soon.