A Climb To Remember

Looking back, the summer of 1990 was a rough time for everyone involved. The Gulf War was in full swing, a sharp recession swept the global economy, and MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” was a number one single.


As if these atrocities weren’t enough, it was also the year my mom went back to work part-time, leaving my dad with five wily rug rats to contend with during one of the hottest summers on record in Nova Scotia.

My sisters, teenagers at the time, could mostly fend for themselves; however my brothers (10 and 12) and I (only four) required constant entertainment to keep from tearing each other’s heads off.

Dad tried taking us to the playground; but the monkey bars proved too perilous. Our trips to the beach resulted only in jellyfish stings and heartache. Eventually, he gave up, bought a bucket of KFC and took us to Greenhill Provincial Park. A picnic in the park, he (undoubedtly) thought, what Β could possibly go wrong?

The park offered panoramic views of the entire county, and in those days there was a tower several stories high you could climb to get a better look.

photo (20)

Immediately upon arrival my brothers rushed to the tower, with me following right behind them.

“Where do you think you’re going?” asked my brother Kristin, “This isn’t for babies!”

“I’m not a baby!” I protested, “I’m four and a half!”

“You’re not allowed!” contested my brother Stephen.

“Can I dad?” I pleaded

“Go ahead,” he sighed, lifting a drumstick defeatedly, “but be careful.”

With a satisfied grin, I began climbing the ladder, taking the first few rungs with vigor. I was feeling quite smug- until I looked down. The ground appeared miles away; my dad and his bucket of chicken nothing but a red and white dot on the horizon. Above me, the ladder seemed to extend infinitely.

My lip began to quiver.

“Hurry up!” shouted Stephen, a few rungs ahead.

“She’s scared,” chimed in Kristin. “I told you she was a baby!”

Tears burned the backs of my eyes, but resolve stirred deep within me. I was Jack, and this was my proverbial Beanstalk. I would climb this tower if it was the last thing I did.

Somehow, through sheer adrenaline, blind faith and four-year-old will, I made it to the top. Ready to bask in my accomplishment, I stepped onto the platform, took a long gaze around, and…… immediately began to bawl like a baby.

“DADDY!!” I wailed, “IT”S TOO HIGH!!!”

Inconsolable and paralyzed by fear, my father was forced to abandon his chicken and momentary peace to climb up the tower and rescue me.

“It’s ok,” he said later, wiping away my tears with a half soiled wet-nap. “You can try again next year.”

But I didn’t. Not that year, or any year after. Instead, I developed a life long fear of heights (and, vaguely, wet-naps). However, I did learn one important lesson that day which continues to guide my decision-making process: when given the choice between taking a risk and staying firmly on the ground with a bucket of fried chicken- always, always ,choose the chicken.

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Question of the Day: What Is Your First Memory?


18 thoughts on “A Climb To Remember

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  1. I remember trying to pull my ears up over my head like the fore-appendages of the large black ants I grew up with – as if my ears could become large forearms over my head. My grandmother told me to stop because if I didn’t my ears would stay that way. She was staying with us because my mother was in hospital giving birth to my brother. This would have made me 1 and 10 months. They swear I either don’t remember this (I do) or else they say it must have been on a later visit. But that was when she stayed with us – when my brother was being born… Either way I reckon this is my first memory.


  2. Have you managed to get revenge on your brothers since? Slugs in their shoes? Puddle water in a can of Coke…?

    My earliest memory is when I was staying with my nan. I had been given some of those funsize chocolate bars and was talking about saving one for my brothers. God knows why, I should have just scoffed them.


  3. I have no idea what memory was first. I remember reading books when I was four, and opening the car door to see what would happen while we were moving around in a traffic circle, and being thrown into a snow bank, because that is what we thought was a fun time. All were before 5, but I am not sure what was first. I should have written them down. I do love fried chicken though. Nova Scotia looks like a beautiful place to grow up. Maine was a lot like that. I have often scared I am not afraid of heights, I am afraid of falling and hitting the ground and dying. πŸ™‚


    1. I think a few years ago! I actually went back this weekend to revisit the scene of the crime and it was gone 😦 I feel like most people’s first memories involve something horrifying.. More should involve KfC.


      1. When my family used to make the rare big trek to Halifax, the big stop en route was the House of Hay at Stewiacke (or maybe it was Shubenacadie). Yup, it was a KFC.


  4. I must not have climbed any towers when I was 4 because I’m not afraid of heights. One of my first memories is when I about 6 and me and my brother got Superman and Batman pajamas and we decided to walk to the local elementary school by ourselves (i think it was at least a mile away) to rescue the sand in the sandbox. Apparantly, we caused a stir because it freaked out my mom and dad quite a bit. We were only trying to save the sand. Was that a cause for alarm?


  5. I’m not sure what my first memory was, but I do remember getting my head stuck in the bars of a slide once. So not only was I up high, but my head was caught and boy did I panick! I think I was around 4 or 5 at the time myself and the park was a popular one. Just a tad awks.


  6. My earliest memories are filled in from family members recounting them, but I do remember my first dance recital (age 2-and-a-half) β€” mainly the stage fright that accompanied it.

    We were harem girls … totally appropriate for toddlers … and I thought I was going to be a superstar as a result. Not so much.

    And I must know, but I hope it doesn’t offend: One of your brothers is named Kristin? I’m fascinated with how parents determine names to begin with β€” would love to hear the story there.


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