Life at a Fast Toddle

31 08 2010

Aren’t toddlers fun to watch? My grandson Sebastian recently turned one. I have so much fun watching him toddle back and forth at his house, mine, the library, the park, wherever. Although his steps may be a bit wobbly, he doesn’t judge himself, hold back, or act fearful because he’s not a perfect walker. He “runs” with abandon, not worrying about whether he is going to fall or run into anything or step on anything. He just does it because he can. He is gleeful and often laughs or scrunches up his face in a delightful look that says “I’m having so much fun!” And he loves having something to carry as he toddles…a basket, a cake pan, a ball, a wooden puzzle piece…just about anything will work. It’s just the act of carrying while walking that is just so cool!

He was at my house several hours yesterday and today while his momma is at a conference and observing and being with him awakens so much in me. I am completely present with him just as I was with his momma and her sister when they were young. I sit on the floor and play with him, dance as he’s dancing, and sit in the sandbox at the park while he scoops sand and watches it fall through his fingers. His attention moves from one thing to another at mind boggling speed, but for the time he’s doing something, he’s completely focused on it.

Sebastian doesn’t fret about where his next meal is coming from or what it’s going to be. He just eats when he’s hungry and says “Nah!” or throws it when he isn’t…sounds fun, doesn’t it? He has no idea when or if he’s going to be taken on a plane, to the park, the grocery store, out for a stroller ride, on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to go downtown San Francisco, to babygym, or to see Oma (that’s me…German for “grandmother”). Everything is fun and he just rolls with it.

And oh…the dancing. A toddler isn’t self conscious and doesn’t wonder if he looks stupid when he dances. He just does it. When I turn on the Raffi CD or he hears something with a catchy beat, he just starts bouncing up and down, twirling, moving his shoulders, and getting his groove on. He can’t help himself…the boy has to dance.

At 12 months, he doesn’t have life experiences, societal influences, and the developmental “maturity” that can contribute to feeling hatred, anger, disgust, sadness, disappointment, resentment, worry, shame, or any other negative emotion. Life is all about possibility, learning, new experiences, wonder, discovery, delight, laughter, smiling, having fun, hugs and kisses, and toddling at full bore.

The more I observe Sebastian, the more I think he has it right. We can be a lot more present to the joys of life by practicing living life at a fast toddle.

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Childhood Summers in a Small East Tennessee Town

27 07 2009

Me and My Siblings in Summer 1962

Me (the oldest and holding a cat) and my siblings in summer 1962

Ah, the summers of childhood. Those were about eating watermelons picked fresh out of Grandmother’s garden and competitive seed spitting with the cousins and siblings. They were about long days at the enormous city pool where huge throngs of people would come and they even had a 3-tier dive platform the heights of the ones used in the Olympics.

They were about taking picnics there or to the Smoky Mountains where we would build dams with large stones across the ice cold creeks, go for small hikes, and skip rocks. They were about playing outside all day long with the neighborhood kids, building forts out of logs from the giant oak tree that was felled by lightning, organizing and holding a 4th of July parade with decorated bicycles and the younger children pulled in wagons, walking to Kay’s Ice Cream or downtown to the movies, and just generally having freedom to go most anywhere our two legs could carry us.

They were about church and music camps and Girl Scout activities and still practicing the piano. They were about creating plays complete with ukuleles and singing and performing them for our parents. They were about long bicycle rides and lots of Kool-Aid and iced tea and marching band practice and living with no air conditioning. Every other summer they were about summer vacations to my Great Auntie Ann’s rented boarding house in St. Petersburg and frolicking on the beach and sunburns.

Those summers of old were about freedom and fun and being a kid. Ah!

And then there were those summer visits to the farm and staying with my grandmother and granddaddy. I don’t remember how long we stayed each time…a week? two?…but it was long enough to get comfortable and start feeling like a farmhand. We’d awake to incredible aromas of a big country breakfast that my grandmother cooked every morning. What a treat that was!

I’ve never had a breakfast since that could compare. Fluffy homemade biscuits, gravy, sausage patties and bacon, hash browns, scrambled eggs, grits, homemade strawberry jam, some kind of fruit, fresh orange juice, and that grainy coffee substitute Postem.

When we were little, we could scoot off after breakfast to go explore. As we got older, we were expected to help wash dishes by hand and dry them. Then it was off to watch my uncle milk cows and even try our hand at it. Or we’d go up in the hayloft and find the eggs the hens had laid. Or go feed the pigs. Or run fast enough to jump over the fence when the big bull was chasing you. Or follow my grandmother out to the enormous, industrial-sized garden and pick home-grown tomatoes for lunch or a watermelon to share with the cousins later.

There was time to sit on the porch swing and look out at the gorgeous rolling hillside or time to walk up to my cousins’ house and follow them as they did their chores of feeding their latest 4H hopeful pig or calf. There was time to go down to the pond and go fishing or to climb in the trees and make what my grandmother called the “monkey tree” with all us young’uns hanging out of it.

There was time to play the heavy old beat-up piano with real ivory keys that was always out of tune. Or to watch my grandmother when she unpinned her perfectly brown hair that hung to her bottom when it was down and she brushed it. There was time to eat the sweet mulberries that fell from the trees or go running through the vineyards. There was always church on Sunday and potluck on Wednesday nights at the little Niles Ferry Baptist Church where my uncle and grandfather were deacons.

Those were times I always looked forward to…those times spent at my grandparents’ house in the country in Greenback, Tennessee and at my enormous two-story home with 12 foot ceilings…the outstanding home of 1910 in our area…in Maryville, Tennessee.