Horny toads and sand burrs out our back door.
We lived in oil company housing in West Texas when I was four. Identical houses formed a square and faced away from the tennis courts and the sidewalks that connected all the back yards in our world. If it wasn’t nap time, colorful trikes, bikes, scooters and skates filled the concrete paths with squeals and screeches.
Somebody’s house had a detached garage with honeysuckle vines covering one wall. I followed my big brother Jim and a couple of his buddies up an easy trellis to the top. The climb was no problem, but getting down brought up some issues.
If I had wandered up there alone, I probably would have backed down as deftly as I crawled up, satisfied with being higher than I’d ever been in my life. But I was not alone, and the six-year olds were up for jumping off the roof.
Each one stood at the edge, prepared himself mentally, and disappeared over the horizon. I dallied over the decision, till the boys moved on without me. I remember Jim throwing me a look before he led the others away.
The look probably meant either, “Go ahead and jump; you’ll be fine,” or, “If you’re scared, climb back down. It’s no big deal.”
I stood there alone, getting acquainted with doubt.
When it finally happened, I leaped with assurance and, I believe, a degree of grace.
Afterwards, I lay spread eagle on my back in the grass, lost in the endless Texas sky.
During the sprint down the sidewalk to get home, I relived the amazing jump off the roof. No Olympic diver ever felt more in the zone than I did. My approach was impeccable. Three deliberate steps. Then not a muscle moved. I stood frozen, thought-free, forever. Finally, in a flash of inspiration, I sprang from that platform into a modified tuck position, which allowed me to land on my feet, then into a seamless somersault.
The velocity of the jump pulled my face out the ends of my ears. Air rushed by. Heart flipped into throat. I don’t remember if I vocalized on the way down. I don’t recall hearing a scream. Probably not enough air for that.
It was a breathtaking jump. Incredible how fast it was over, considering the time it took for the preparation. I lay back in the warm morning sun. What bliss.
When I talked to Jim about it fifty years later, he remembered us jumping off the roof, but recalled there had been a sand pile behind that garage. We jumped from the roof to a load of soft sand. Not grass.
Either way, it was a real confidence-booster.
There were no witnesses to my flight, but I told Jim and Mom what I had done that morning.
Mom’s reaction: “You WHAT?”
She could see that I was not only uninjured, but beaming.
Jim backed up the story with corroborating details and gave me a slight nod that probably meant, “You’re my sister.”