“As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And the older you get, the fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things.”
From the movie The Hurt Locker
Saturday was Luke’s birthday party. His second birthday party. His first with actual friends, a desire to eat his cupcake, and an attempt to blow out his candles. Although he seemed stunned with each familiar face that entered our front door (I’m sure in his head was, “Hey, I know you! You’re that kid from my class! What the hell are YOU doing here?”), I do believe it was one of the happiest days of his life. Everyone was there for him. All of his favorite things were surrounding him. Music, balloons, Cars plates and napkins, Matchbox car tattoos and stickers, and bubbles. What more could a two year old boy ask for?
One of my favorite things is watching Luke (or any small child for that matter) gaze in amazement at the simplicities of life. An airplane flying overhead. Translucent, yet colorful bubbles float toward them and pop on their noses. A squirrel scamper across the yard and effortlessly up a tree. Sand flowing through a sifter at the beach. Water splash from the tub when their hands slap onto it. Things you and I don’t notice. We take for granted. But our children, they marvel. They are awestruck and entertained. How many times can I blow into the party blower and have it hit Luke in the nose with a “Toot!” before he tires of it? Each time I do it, he laughs as hard as the last and asks for More (or “MAH!” as he says it)!
But it doesn’t last. The excitement dwindles. Things become expected. Forgotten. Simple. Even with Hannah I find myself having to work harder to get her to find joy in things. She even sometimes rolls her eyes at Luke when he stares into the sky at the line left behind by an airplane flying above us and claps. I try to see things through his little eyes. How incredible it must be to him that there is something so Far away. So out of his reach. How one of those ENORMOUS planes he’s seen only on TV could be so high in the sky. I let him see me sharing this enthusiasm because I want him to feel Right in feeling this way.
Because sadly, these little easy things won’t forever bring him such joy.
I bought a bunch of balloons for Luke’s birthday party. Bright red and blue ones that I caught him staring at throughout his party. Watching them bob back and forth, up and down in the wind. He laughed every time one smacked me in the head as I was setting up the party and the wind caught them the right way. There is something about balloons with little kids. The pride they feel in carrying one around. The envy they feel when someone else has one and they don’t. The thrill in approaching a balloon salesperson (aka clown) and picking out the one right for them. The dismay they feel when one escapes their tight grasp. I actually STILL love balloons. Their bright colors. The fact that they symbolize something special going on. The smiles I get as I carry 30 of them in the wind, through a parking lot and try to stuff them into the back of my car. You see someone with balloons, you know they are celebrating something. Balloons are happy. The way they move and the way they look.
I gave out a balloon to each child as they left the party. I’m pretty certain they were more excited by their new balloon than the book that I gave out in the goody bag. Accidentally one of the kids let go of her balloon and all eyes turned upward to watch it float slowly, gracefully into the sky. There was silence in the crowd as it hesitated and bumped into the branches of the trees blocking its way to freedom. But after a few starts and stops, it finally stood stark red against the light blue sky. It floated higher and higher until it was a mere speck, and then it was gone. All of us watched. The two year olds. The five year olds. The parents. The grandparents. And no one cried. Only watched with maybe different levels of, but still, interest and maybe wonder. I wondered where it would end up. If others would see it. How long it would be in the sky. What conversation it would illicit.
We let a few more balloons go after that one (I know not so great for the environment or the birds) because of the entertainment value. And each one continued to bring “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” from the young but also older, jaded crowd. And it made me realize, that yes, as we get older, there are fewer things that impress us and fewer things that easily entertain us, but it’s our own fault. We need to LOOK for those things to love. Unearth NEW things that we didn’t even realize we can love. Recall the things we USED to love and love them again.
Look through our children’s eyes and share THEIR joy… it’s not that hard. And well worth it.