I watch with wonder my four year old grandson as he demonstrates for me that he has learned to skip. “It’s not walking, Grandma,” he explains as he gaily skips across the living room floor. “You only put one foot down and then jump to the other one, like this,” he says. He is full of such joy with his newly accomplished skill that I can’t help feeling like I want to get up and skip right along with him. I smile and admire his enthusiasm as I watch how he never seems to slow down in his journey back and forth across the room. His delightful giggle is infectious. How could anybody feel sad in his presence?
Quincy is the youngest of my eight grandchildren. Officially he will be four years old on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2009. I marvel at the wonder of it all, how I have come full circle, and I am now Grandma, but I can still recall the time I was sitting on my Grandpa Orr’s lap on the morning of my third birthday.
I remember coming down the steps that fall morning holding my blankie. I always had with me everywhere I went my soft, blue blanket edged with the smooth, silky border. With one hand on the railing, I stepped down on each stair step one at a time, one foot down followed by the other foot, one foot down again and so on until I reached the bottom of the long wooden staircase.
The kitchen was the first room on my left after reaching the bottom of the stairs. Mommy and Daddy were having their breakfast and talking softly. Walking several steps forward I looked to my left in to the living room. In the middle of the vast room decorated in dark green and white floral wall paper with a blue rug on the floor stood a beautiful white rocking horse with a bright red saddle. I immediately ran for it and climbed on instinctively knowing how to make the horse rock back and forth on the springs that held it to the wooden frame. Oh! How I loved that horse. It was just the right size for me, and I could make it rock so far back and forth that the long front legs nearly touched the floor. The horse’s back legs, however, were tucked closely underneath its hollow body.
Later that same day my Grandpa Orr came to visit and eat dinner with us. I happily announced to him, “Now, I am three, Grandpa” as I sat on his lap in the big, blue chair that sat next to the window of our living room. His cigar emitted the strong pungent smell of smoke as it sat burning in the tall silver ash-tray stand that stood next to the chair. “How many fingers is that?” he asked. “Show me!”
I proudly displayed for him three of my tiny fingers, while trying to keep my thumb and little finger hidden. He, then, held up four of his big, thick calloused fingers saying, “Next year you’ll be this many!” The memory of those words and my grandpa’s four fingers in front of me is how I remember being three years old. Four months after my third birthday in the middle of winter, my parents brought home a new baby sister, Patricia.
When my sister grew to be two years old, I remember riding in the car sitting in the back seat with my older sister, Dianne. Baby seats were unheard of in the fifties, and all five of us rode in the car with absolutely no seat belt while travelling on open highway.
If I peeked between the two front seats, I could see my little sister shaking her head back and forth singing songs that only she knew what the words meant. She frequently made up songs with her own tunes and her own words that didn’t make much sense to anybody else. She sang her songs happily as she tossed around her blonde curls not caring about anyone else in the world or what they thought of her.
Our family often went for drives on Sunday afternoons in my father’s 1949 shiny black Ford. I remember during one of those drives when I was about five years old thinking to myself, “Just think of me!” I kept repeating the thought over and over realizing that I exist, I am a person, I am alive! I continued thinking with great excitement on that very thought of my existence until I actually felt strange.
The feeling overtook my whole being until it was so powerful that I forgot where I was or who was with me. It is a feeling that I no longer seem to be able to experience now that I’m grown. I do know this, however, that at the moment the feeling overtook me, nothing else mattered but that indescribable feeling of, “I am Me!” I wanted to experience it again and again.
I wonder do all children experience an awesome sensation of existence and self awareness. Is it something that we are born with, and depending on the direction our lives take determines whether or not we keep that self love with us all throughout life?
Now that I am a grown woman, I look back on that experience, and I wonder if I was actually meditating. I was going within myself, to my soul, my essence and experiencing a feeling of wonder. I was enjoying being alive. I believe that surely must have been my earliest experience with wonder and awe.
Considering spirituality, I recall several questions that I asked my mother in childhood wondering where I began and where I would end.
“Mommy, when we die, does God let down a string and pull us up to heaven?” I innocently asked one day trying to imagine how we made the journey to Him after our death. She smiled as she confirmed for me that yes that is how it happens. I remember, too, her answer the time that I inquired, “What if we are ever asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’ and if we answered ‘yes’ we would be put to death. Do you think that He would understand if we answer ‘no’, Mommy, and apologized to Him later saying that we really do believe in Him?” She explained as best she could to her inquisitive child that God wants us to stand up for our belief in Him and be truthful always.
I don’t recall whether or not I actually gained any special knowledge or insight during those moments in childhood when I enjoyed thinking about me and experiencing the awesome feeling of being alive. I know that it was a very special feeling of total acceptance, a feeling of wonderment and awe at the thought of just existing.
Looking back, I wonder if what I experienced might have been a healthy feeling of self love that we are all born with and deep down never forget. I wonder, too, if any of us grow to adulthood without losing that special love of self and incredible knowledge that we are worthy and acceptable. What gets in the way or what is it about life that could possibly be so dramatic that takes that feeling of wonder from us? After all, unless we love ourselves nobody else can love us either.
Watching my grandson skipping along merrily and feeling so proud of himself, I hope that he will always maintain that infectious laughter and joy of being alive. I love being with him experiencing his joy and love for life with all of its wonderfully fun and exciting opportunities. My wish for Quincy and for all of my grandchildren is that they never lose that sense of wonder. May they always know that they are special, unique individuals who are worthy and lovable and acceptable just as they are and just because they exist!