It took me many years to realize my fear of heights is much more about seeing someone else fall than falling myself. Yes, I can hear the braying laughter of my family already, but it’s true. Maybe it’s popularity of shows like Jackass and increase of amateur parkour fanatics, but I don’t trust people not to do something stupid. I still remember a scene from a Superman movie in the 1980s where a boy is playing whoopsie-doopsie on the outside railing of a viewing platform at Niagara Falls: “Look at me, I can fall back and catch myself with one hand!” Then the future Darwin Award winner plummets after slipping, Mommy screams after looking at her kid for the first time in an hour, and Clark Kent has to make a speedy rescue. My only thoughts when watching this scene: “Let him fall, it’ll serve him right!” So when I’m at a crumbly cliff edge or a building parapet or a shin-high bridge railing, I’m cautious but okay by myself. It’s when Studs McMoron shows up, reeking of pot smoke and poor judgment, and wants to show his friends that he can slackline over the gorge without spilling his beer, that I cover my eyes and wait for a choked scream.
So how did I do watching Child Harbat climb up a tall steel frame in her bare feet, shimmy across several bars, and mount the top of the structure like a golden-haired lemur? I was proud and not afraid. You see, she has two things going for her: good sense and cartilage. If you’ve seen an x-ray of a child you can see that most bones are like grains of rice suspended in Jell-O. It’s not until they hit puberty that a normal skeleton begins to crowd out the cartilage and connecting tissue. So usually when kids fall they bend and stretch and hopefully don’t break something. And her good sense had her testing out each hand- and foothold like a pro climber, gripping and pivoting so she always had a solid brace for her next move. She made it to the top of the structure which was, no exaggeration, about 9’ up. I couldn’t reach up to help her but could only hope to make a dive in the sand and catch her before impact. Luckily she made it across then made the full traverse six more times. Children are natural climbers, light and flexible, and I’d rather be stuck with my daughter on a cliff than anyone else. Now please get down from there before my heart explodes.