My middlechild is acrophobic. I noticed this when she was on that age when we were training her to get on and off the escalator. I thought it was just the moving steps that intimidated her, as she would hold on to me so fiercely it hurt, until I noticed that once we get to the next floor, she would make it a point to be as far away from the railings as she could.
She never intimated to us that she’s afraid. She never voiced out her fear. She’s the child who does not complain. She’s really quiet, oftentimes mistaken as sad, or even suplada, by people who have not even spent more than an hour alone with her. She describes herself as reticent. Her words, not mine.
At home, she would just sit at her desk and read. Or draw. She reads the dictionary as her pastime, along with the National Geographic Kids Almanac. So using reticent in an ordinary conversation should not come as a surprise. Her favorite storybook is the Adventure Bible for Young Readers.
When she draws, she goes into a zone. She puts on her headphones and plays her own music. She downloads music from the net and saves them in an old cellphone. We bought an SD card for her and let her use the old cellphone as her personal music player. She likes Japanese music, I think. Anime music, particularly.
She plays the piano, but aspires to play the violin later. In her words: “When we have money to buy a violin, I want to play the violin.”
Her favorite destination is the bookstore. On our weekend grocery outings, she would first ask if we would pass by the bookstore, otherwise, she’d rather stay home. Strike that. Her first question would be: “Are we going up the second floor?” “Are we going to the bookstore?” would be next. When I need to transact with the bank, or if I have other business errands, she would prefer to kill time at Book Sale, or National Book Store. She immediately veers to the arts and crafts section and feasts her eyes on art supplies. She likes to look at pretty things, but she doesn’t like pink. She is very feminine that way. Pink used to be a masculine color.
But what really strikes me as special is her patience to wait. Wait for the time when we can afford what she wants. Wait for the time when there already is a need for it. Or be content with what she has. Because she knows that what she has is what she actually needs. Wants versus needs. She has a clear sense of it, even at an early age. She would use a pencil down to its last inch of lead. Dahil pwede pa.
I remember that time when we attended a homeschool workshop in the city. She brought her sketch pad and pencil with her so she could keep herself busy while I learn Singapore Math. But somehow, she lost her pencil, so she could not do anything. During the break, I decided that we should swing by National Bookstore and buy her one. There, she saw colored drawing pencils that we don’t ever see at the smaller provincial branches. I could see how she really wanted to ask for a set, but was keeping quiet. So I asked her if she wanted one. She said: “Meron pa naman.” She was ready to deny herself of a better set, because she still has old crayons at home. My heart melted, so I volunteered to buy her something. She asked: “Do you have money?” I said we could afford to buy one. And she insisted: “Just the small box, Mommy. Mahal ‘yong big box.” She was eight.
Earlier this year, we went on a vacation, sponsored by my first love and hero, my brother. One of the destinations was the Treetop Adventure in Baguio. Now aware of her fear of heights, I did not volunteer her to take the canopy ride when my brother asked who would want to go. Surprise, surprise! She said she would. I asked if she was sure, and she said yes. While she was being prepped with the harness and all, I kept on asking her, and she kept on saying yes, she’s taking the ride.
She was shaking as we were strapped to our seats. But I just kept on watching her. I am also terrified of heights, and I was wishing her to back out, so I would have an excuse not to go, too. But she held on to her resolve. One station down, seven more to go.
On the second station, her resolve started to crumble. Tears started to flow. She asked if we could go down. But there was no way down from where we were. We had to go to the station where the funicular is. That meant two more rides.
We finished the required four rides, went down the funicular and met up with the others who went on a canopy walk. Afterwards, I asked Bea, so why did you take the ride? You said you wanted it.
Her response was something that will forever be etched in my mind.
I did not want it. I needed it.
I was taken aback. At ten, I did not expect her to have that view on what she just went through. I thought she simply wanted to join in the fun. I thought she just didn’t want to be left out. Those would have been enough reasons for me. But what she did was much more important. She acknowledged her fear, and charged ahead to overcome it. She braced herself and tried to be brave. But in the end, the fear was just too much, and she buckled. But I am mighty proud of her for putting herself to the test. She said she needed it. Needed to experience the extreme fear of going up a hundred feet above ground, hanging from her seat on the canopy, at some point her shoes brushing against the leaves of a tall tree. She may have failed to make it to the end, but she is now a stronger person. More attuned to her fears and up to what extent she can handle them.
She still avoids the railings at the malls, but at least she can now get on the escalator without having to hold my hand. After Typhoon Glenda, she even stayed by the window of our upstairs bedroom with her siblings and watched the trees sway with the then weakening wind.