Christmas is done! No traces remain of the 19 people who celebrated the day on December 27th. All the nativity sets are boxed and stored, the ornaments packed and the house clean.
We store our significant number of Christmas boxes in the attic.
I bring in a step ladder – a couple of feet too short – and pop open a hatch and pull myself through.
This year two of the grandchildren witnessed the ascension into the mysterious. Naturally they wanted to see.
The first is seven years old (he is not in the picture; that is cousin Riley). This grandson and I share a lot in common – curiosity, a fascination with things like Transformers, a willingness to draw imaginary lightsabers at the slightest provocation and caution.
Two steps up the ladder and it is clear he is reconsidering. I am leaning down through the hole, arms outstretched and Grandma has a hold of both his legs. Stable and secure a couple of steps from the top he is able to pop his head through and do a quick surveillance.
On the way up the ladder he has taunted his two year old sister. “Gracie, only I am allowed to do this. You have to stay down here.” She protests. A compromise is negotiated. She can go up two rungs.
No sooner has his feet hit the floor and she is on the ladder. She has observed and knows how to scale this thing.
And up she goes, past the outstretched hands of Grandma.
She is about to step on the top of the ladder before I can snag one of her wrists. Grandma has an ankle (although who knows what she is going to do with that!).
Standing on the top platform Grace reaches up her other hand. “Up Papa. Up!”
She bends her knees like she does when readying for a dive into the swimming pool.
“Wait until I get your other arm.”
I pull her up, my heart in the red zone.
She looks around with a “What’s the big deal?” look and then moves her feet towards the hatch.
This time we’re ready although she will probably have the red marks of my fingerprints on her wrists for a couple of hours.
“What a kid!” I say.
“She’s just not afraid,” says her mother, who has come not so much to rescue her daughter as perform CPR to the grandfather if needed.
Later I think about fear.
Fear run unbridled and unexamined makes the world a small place.
Fear does not help us follow our curiosities, imagine greatness or to boldly reach towards our dreams.
All true and we each wrestle with our own fears. They are not the same nor is the power we accord them.
I was anxious Grace might tumble, plummeting hundreds of metres in a fall not even Spider Man could navigate – or at least five feet.
Grandma had more admiration than fear.
Grace’s mother had seen similar things before and while, sometimes wishing for more caution, knows better than to impose her own anxieties.
The source of our fears often has deep roots, reinforced by practice and family litanies.
When we were young and my brother and I would leave the house one of the things my mother would say was “Be careful.”
I hunch that the prime commissioning my wife received was “Have fun!”
And I realized how the taming of fear can be a communal activity. Grandma’s reaction tempered my own.
The sayings of Jesus are riddled with statements like “Be not afraid.” I always assumed he was talking individually; now I think probably not.