Way up high

I am claustrophobic (to the point that my husband automatically teases me to distract me every time we get on an elevator to-gether), but I have no fear of heights. In fact, I like being up high.

Which is why I offered to paint the posts on my mom and dad’s really tall deck. Mom doesn’t like heights.

My friend Tina and I used to climb onto the roofs of all the buildings at her house. Except the big barn. We never figured out how to get up on the big barn. And we tried everything we could think of.

The house actually came first. We opened a window, removed a screen and crawled out onto the roof. From there, we could go around the dormer and get up onto the main roof. Way cool.

Later, we figured out how to get on the roof of the chicken house. We actually had to climb up part of a neighboring building, then jump across to the chicken house. Nifty.
The garage was a bit more a challenge, but we had honed our roof-climbing skills by then and were practiced in the art of scurrying up the side of the roof. It was getting to it that was tough.

To tackle the garage, we had to start with the dog pen. It was a big wire pen, but we finally figured out how to scale it. We were about 13 years old at the time and pretty skinny kids, which is a good thing. Otherwise the pen probably would have collapsed under our weight.
You know how sometimes you can pull up a memory like a mental photograph? For some reason, I can still picture Tina sitting triumphantly on the roof of the garage, smiling and dripping a bit of blood. She had ripped a nail down to the quick while climbing and it had started to bleed. Why I remember that I do not know.

Tina and I thought about getting up on the roof of my house, but never did. The roof was much steeper and my parents would have been quite angry. We never really had to worry about that at Tina’s house because her mom was never home. As long as Tina’s little brother Keith was alive when Becky got home at night, she really didn’t care what we did.

I still wish we could have found a way to get up on that barn. We spent hours trying to figure it out. If I close my eyes and picture it, I can still almost smell the tang of the haymow filled with hay and feel the sunshine pouring in the open door as we laid on the floor and stared up toward the roof. A rope, maybe? No, we can’t get it up there. Nothing to grab onto, no way to scale the outside. Darn barn.

When Eric and I bought our first home in the fall of 1995, I was talking to Tina about it on the phone, describing the hideous wallpaper in the kitchen. She was hoping to come visit the following summer and made me promise not to redo the kitchen until she could come. She was living in Connecticut at the time, but getting ready to move back to Minnesota so she could be around her family.

One of the first things she asked me about the house was “How is the roof?”

“It will take a ladder to get started, but otherwise very doable,” I said, ignoring Eric’s puzzled look at hearing my end of the conversation. “We might be able to make it out the dormer window, but its narrow right there. Besides, I don’t want to give the kids any ideas.”

I’ve always used the ladder route on our roof. I’ve been up there a lot, usually to stain the cedar siding on the dormer. I’ve been up on our garage too. Tina would be proud.

I never set foot on a roof without thinking of Tina. I really miss her.

She never did get a chance to help me battle my ugly wallpaper. She died that winter after a long fight with breast cancer. I wonder if there are roofs in heaven for her to climb? Yes, I can see her doing it. There’s a picture I can see in my head. Tina scaling the side of a huge roof wearing a mischievous smile while St. Peter and a flock of angels yell at her to get down.

Just the thought of it makes me smile.