The Second Fear

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Dear Blue,

 

This past weekend we visited a museum. What’s cool about living in LA is it’s filled with all kinds of these corners of discovery, so we found ourselves in this tucked-away corner of Brookside Park near the Rose Bowl at a place called Kidspace.

 

We bought a membership, and after a bit of exploring, we came to this exhibit called The Raindrop Climber. It’s a series of blue-tinted glass platforms layered upon one another in a slow spiral. It’s about 250 feet tall. It’s filled with children who do not understand the concept of mortality and act accordingly. And so, it’s naturally something you wanted to climb.

 

Even though you just learned how to walk.

 

You and I began to climb. One platform after another. Very quickly, your mother disappeared from view as we moved upward into the tower. Soon you began to get tired, and I carried you. Soon after, I began to get tired, because you’re a very awkwardly shaped cannonball with hair, Blue.

 

At about the halfway point, we stopped for a breath. We could see neither the top nor the bottom, and I looked at you and asked, “Up?” Your eyes, with a gentle flick upwards, told me what your voice hasn’t learned yet.

 

So we kept climbing. You, the intrepid explorer, and me, your wooly-haired Sherpa. The second half of the climb proved much tougher than the first. The platforms became narrower, the air temperature grew hotter, and there were sections of platforms that were so tightly packed in together that I had to push you through first before climbing up beside you.

 

At the top, we called your mother. She asked, “Where are you?” I said, “In the clouds.” You said, “Ahhhhhh!” And I said, “Let’s get back down.”

 

Most times, it takes more courage to venture into the unknown. Once the path is known, then it becomes gradually less scary until it’s just a path and not the path. There’s a difference.

 

The climb up the raindrop climber was different, however, because of course, we had to climb down. Which really meant that I had to climb down carrying you, and thus, this prospect was much scarier than the ascent.

 

There’s an extra edge to fear for the parent of a child who likes to explore. There’s the initial fear of the thing itself, which manifests itself as, “If my child explores that, will they make it back in one piece while still breathing?” That’s always the first fear. But then, there’s the second fear, which is more like, “If he explores that and something bad happens, will it scar him forever?”

 

So that’s where we found ourselves on the descent. The initial fear was gone. I knew you were going to be okay physically, but now came the much more dreaded journey of the mind.

 

I figured that in order to make sure you were okay, I had to be okay. So I laughed, smiled, and generally tried to be merry as worked our way down the raindrops. Your face was a gathering storm cloud of worry, but you held it together until we got to the bottom. Your mom greeted us as conquering heroes. We had reached the summit of the raindrop tower and returned. To honor our accomplishments, we were given tangerines.

 

Your worry faded, replaced by a wide smile. I don’t know if it was the tangerines or the tower, but in the moment, I didn’t care. You never once shed a tear, and in my mind, that was mission accomplished.

 

-Dad

 

 

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