Janet Sheridan: The excitement of firsts
Lindy, my favorite babysitting job when I was a teenager, tottered toward me on unsteady legs wearing a diaper and a grin. Her young parents greeted me with excitement, “Janet, you have to hear this; you won’t believe what Lindy just said. Listen.”
Her excited dad then asked his cherub, “Lindy, what did you just taste? Can you tell Janet? You ate a … ”
“Mugwump,” Lindy said.
“What are they feeding this kid?” I thought.
“Did you hear her? Isn’t she great? She can say doughnut.” After her parents left, Lindy and I read a book, rocked and ate a mugwump.
Lindy’s parents tickled me with their fuss about a word I couldn’t hear; but she also needed to celebrate some successes by herself without adult praise, hoopla and trophies. Her feelings of capability and self-worth would also grow from unheralded, first-time achievements or experiences that filled her with happiness.
I still remember the day I studied older children diving into a swimming pool, then perched on the pool’s edge, propelled my body out and down — and gave up belly flopping forever. Maybe you remember teaching the family dog to roll over, learning to roller skate on your own, or making your friends laugh with your first successful joke.
Self-fulfilling firsts don’t end with childhood. As a teenager, I danced on the inside when I produced a shriek of uncontrolled sound on my clarinet. Maybe you felt proud when you made yourself a dress, parallel parked on a busy street without anyone telling you how or talked to the coach about your lack of playing time without involving your parents.
Adults also experience firsts. I’ll never forget my first sight of two natural wonders: an ocean full of restless waves sweeping toward me from the hazy horizon and my first drive west out of Denver on I-70 when the Rocky Mountains spread before me, eternal and implacable.
You might remember the first paycheck you received as a gainfully employed adult, a walk through the Redwoods when mist curled around your feet and towering trees hushed all sound or the sweet moment when you were alone, holding your baby and knew you’d never been happier.
Yesterday, I watched two sisters, a young child and a toddler, approach the playground at Breeze Street Park after waving to their parents, who watched from a nearby picnic table. As they crossed the grass, the older girl paused to pick a dandelion gone to seed and show it to her little sister. Then she puffed her cheeks and blew away the fluffy crown as the toddler laughed and grabbed for the dispersing cloud. The older child then plucked another dandelion, gave it to her sister, issued detailed instructions and chanted, “One, two, three, blow!” The toddler blew with all her might; the seeds danced away, and I witnessed a small, private first of enchantment.
Watching the girls, I realized they have a world full of firsts ahead of them, while my potential firsts are limited. My mind grappled with the knowledge that in my foreseeable future, I will experience my final first, as all of us must. This might have been a gloomy thought, but was not. Seeing a youngster’s first experience with dandelions on a summer day reassured me. The cycles of life repeat. Children will continue to enjoy firsts; and so will we all for as long as we live — if we open ourselves to the lives we have and the experiences they offer.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on the 1st and 15th of every month.Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on the 1st and 15th of every month.
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