When it wasn’t raining every day and there were still no classes to belatedly suspend because of bad weather, we scaled a wall and climbed up to the roof of our house.
The Tactless Child had gotten it into her head that she was afraid of heights. I suspected that this phobia conveniently manifested itself after I told The Tactless Child that she was hereby in charge of feeding the fish, whose tank is on top of a book shelf. She would have to stand on a chair to feed our silent pets.
But just in case the fear was real and not a means to manipulate the ignorant mother, I thought back to an article I wrote about phobias. The doctor I interviewed said that the quickest way to remove a specific phobia is to gradually expose the person to the subject of his fear.
I don’t remember if I did it gradually, but I do remember feeling very smart when I thought of it: Why don’t we climb up to the roof of our house to show The Tactless Child that there’s nothing to be afraid of?
Turns out, there indeed was a bit to fear; beginning with The One Who Spits running up the ladder. There I was on the fourth rung, reaching up to hold The One Who Spits’ ankle and reaching down to pull up The Tactless Child. There was a brief moment, when I resembled a human letter T, that I realized the stupidity of my plan, but soon after, I’d cleared the ladder and pulled myself up to the roof.
We were on top of the big storage shed, a.k.a. bodega, behind the house. Right beside this shed grew an atis tree which was full of ripe fruits that balmy afternoon. The branches made a little cocoon of leaves over the roof, about four feet high. Sitting under the branches, it felt like we were inside a tent made of leaves. The One Who Spits immediately started harvesting atis – ripe, nearly ripe, and half-an-inch small, he picked them all. The Tactless Child forgot about her fear and got into harvesting, too. (The quickness in how her phobia left her made me realize that a six-year-old had finally succeeded in playing me for a fool.)
After harvest time, we explored the rest of the roof. The storage shed connects to the main house so covering the entire space was easy enough – for someone who didn’t have two young kids with her. Seeing the wide new space, The One Who Spits started quivering with joy. He didn’t know where to run to first: would he run to the street side of the roof first, where he could head-dive into hard cement, or would he dash to the part at the side of the house, where he could plunge into sharp tree branches? Oh, the choices!
When we had enough of the sun, we retreated to another part of the slanted roof where there was an overhang of santol branches. I had a snack of fruit (picked right from the tree!) while The One Who Spits massacred unsuspecting ants and The Tactless Child called down to our helper for a spoon, because her barbarian of a mother, who was eating santol with just her hands and teeth, didn’t think to bring spoons to eat fruits with.
We spent about a couple of hours on the roof, enough to extinguish all trace of one’s fear of heights. But it wasn’t long enough. Both kids thought the roof was a treasure trove and wouldn’t leave. Together, they found a rusty pair of tongs, a ballpen with no cap, a forlorn kite, and a spool of string. Our roof was apparently someone’s lost-and-found drawer.
Finally, we were ready to go. And then I learned the hard way that coming up a ladder is worlds different from going down it. It was a very good thing that our helper, who is used to my unexpected “plans”, was waiting at the foot of the ladder. The Tactless Child got down first without incident. Then I climbed down with The One Who Spits. I had him pinned against the ladder, supported by my arms and stomach. But somehow, he wormed his way out of my body cage and, with still six rungs to go, jumped off the ladder sideways. It was a fantastic catch by our helper, the savior of the day.
Since then, a trip up to the roof has gained status in our house. It’s now up there with Unlimited TV Time (which never happens) and Eating Chips Instead of Healthy Food (which happens from time to time, when I’m feeling guiltily rebellious). It’s something you don’t want to do because you know it’s just not a good idea. But you still do it because when you’re up on the roof, at least, you can reach up and pretend that you can touch the sun. And how glorious would it be if you actually could?