28 February 2013

I Learned It By Watching You

I’m about to start crying in the middle of a pancake house. I don’t think anyone, in the history of pancake houses, has ever been moved to tears while dining in one. This has to be a first.

Let me back up.

As our younger son barrels toward his first birthday, life is once again all about firsts. We (not just the wife and I, but people in general, I think) are particularly preoccupied with baby firsts. First time they smile or laugh or sit up or take a step or walk or say something that kind of vaguely sort of resembles Mama or Dada. But as they get older, there’s still a million more tiny firsts all along the way.

And so it is with the Doozer who is 4, but still has firsts. The first time he puts on his own socks. Or brushes his teeth by himself. Or is selected as a husband by a preschool classmate.

The unfortunate thing that I’ve begun to notice more and more is that a lot of these firsts occur when I’m not present. Typically I’m at work and so I am not there for the inaugural step or smile or laugh or absurdist knock-knock joke or new dance move. I’m missing moments.

And when I witness them, finally, I am excited and tell the wife about this wonderful development. “Oh, he did that the other day,” I’m told. “And a couple of times yesterday.”

So it goes. I am there and I am not there. My memories are a first for me, but not the actual firsts. I’m getting the reruns and I didn’t even know this show existed before now.

But this time, I think I was in on the ground floor of something.

Recently, I taught the Doozer the old high-five gag. Perhaps you’re familiar: Give me five, up high, down low, too slow. I’m not sure what compelled me to introduce this routine to him. Perhaps we’d been high-fiving and fist-bumping for long enough that it had become pedestrian and I wanted to shake it up. Also, I love to hear him laugh and as he starts to understand jokes and comedy, I want to feed and sustain that interest as much as possible.

It was a big hit. He immediately started doing it back to me, even if he wasn’t quite fast enough on the “too slow” part or his delivery was off to really sell the routine. It was endearing. Hilarious. It made us both laugh. And laughing with your kid, sharing that . . . amazing.

So, there we are, on a recent Saturday, having breakfast with my dad at a pancake house. The old man, the new old man, and the little man. The Doozer is sitting next to his grandpa and in the middle of the meal, turns to him and does the high-five routine. And I have no idea why it didn’t occur to me until that exact moment, but it was my dad who taught me that routine and used to do it to me when I was a kid.

Now, I can’t be positive this was an actual first. But I’d like to think that this one I was there for. I got to witness this. Sure, it’s possible he was with my dad some other time and it happened prior to me ever seeing it. But I’m going to choose to live in ignorance and assume that this didn’t happen and that I was witness to the very first time that this occurred. I’m choosing to believe that this is genuine. Live, not Memorex.

And so I’m going to lose it in the middle of a pancake house. I am literally choked up watching this. Why am I so emotional? About everything? Why is my life now a heartstring-tugging Purina Puppy Chow commercial? All the f’ing time?

And then we’re all laughing. The whole routine is stale and corny and probably wasn’t all that funny even the very first time it was performed. But in that moment, it give us all more joy than you could possibly imagine. Or maybe that’s just me. Laughing hysterically, yet on the verge of sobbing uncontrollably. In a pancake house.

There’s a first time for everything.

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