The Night We Climbed the Water Tower

Photo by Arturo Mendez on Unsplash

It was chilly, and very dark; that’s what I remember most clearly.

But where Mimi went, I followed. Mimi was two years older, my best friend and protector and constant companion. She was also braver than I.

I pretended bravery. So when Mimi and our best friend Beverly Ann made a plan to climb the water tower, I was in. We slipped out the front door — nobody watched (or locked) front doors in those gentler post-WWII days — about 10 PM, after the grown-ups had turned off the Victrola and retired. Barefoot and pajama-clad, we ran through the fields to the water tower at the edge of town.

Mimi and Beverly Ann scampered up the ladder and onto the narrow walkway in a matter of minutes. I followed as closely as my fluttering heart would allow, trying not to look down. We made one lap around the tower, looking down but holding tight to the rail; I may have been holding tighter than anyone ever held onto anything in human history.

There were, unfortunately, no selfie cameras in those days; but there was an iron clad honor system reinforced by community norms and the possibility of being ratted out. The next day we three joined the rarefied ranks of Those Who Climbed the Water Tower At Night. This was not a club whose membership was publicized among grown-ups, but it carried more than a little prestige among the under-10 set.

I still pretend bravery. On occasion I prove actually brave. Most of the credit goes to my sister Mimi, may she rest in well-earned peace.

But I no longer climb water towers.


  1. I love Mimi; such an inspiration for adventure. I have two older sisters neither of whom would lead me on such a
    lark. Also, I don’t think we had a water tower in Palo Alto.

    1. Older sisters are the best. I am now down to none, and do not like being the Matriarch – but here we are. Cheers to you & the handsome Phil.

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