Friday, May 08, 2009

On a dare...

"Will you do it on a dare?" he asked inviting me to join him at the top of the ledge about five feet high. I was only eight years old, but I understood what that meant.

"You're going to have to say you dare me," I told him.

"Okay, I dare you."

I took a small ladder, and climbed to the top of the ledge where he stood looking back at me victoriously.

"Now, jump," he said. "Jump!"

I held my breath, and looked at the pavement below. It looked hard and thorny as if
somebody dropped a few nails, and a couple of pounds of cement. There was nothing to buffer my fall.

At the time, my mother often criticized me for not going through a tomboy phase. I was the kid who held onto the rail anxiously while walking down a flight of stairs. And, although I often liked to hang out on window ledges which terrified my father, I wasn't the kind of girl who would do anything dangerous. At least, not outwardly.

But, there was something, even back then, about the power of words, about the concept of daring, about giving one's word, about not letting fear stand in the way of experience. Had my young friend asked, urged, even implored me, my feet would never have budged, but because he dared me nothing, not even gravity, would stand in my way.

How often we forget those magical realizations from our childhood. The fascination with what is new, untried. Back then, we surrounded ourselves only with wonder. Fear was not in our lexicon, and pain was something we would learn to overcome time, and time again.