My wife has sometimes been rightfully and fairly exasperated with me, or angry, or bemused, or pleased, but it’s possible that only once have I ever made her truly sad.
That was a few weeks ago on Halloween, when I was stuffing our daughter into her pumpkin costume. I turned to my wife Charlotte and said: This is The Baby’s last first holiday.
Charlotte looked up with the kind of despair that I think Ichabod Crane must have felt, right before the Headless Horseman came for his head.
Why would you say that? she said.
I apologized. I didn’t know. The realization wasn’t hitting me in the same way. I was excited, actually, for The Baby to be old enough to put herself into some Halloween costume, not having to shout her horror and confusion at being pushed in.
The costume was one my grandmother had made when I was a baby. It included a matching orange hat with a green sprig. But I carried the hat in my pocket this Halloween, because The Baby does not like new hats.
She has confident likes and dislikes, and that’s something I admire about her already. Among the former are large kitchen utensils, electrical outlets, the edges of beds, one particular stuffed bulldog, any cellphone, and the book about a dinosaur’s blanket. A list of the latter include hats, socks, jackets, her car seat, and cute little shoes.
This isn’t an entirely fair characterization. Really, it’s that The Baby doesn’t tend to like things the first time. The first time, or few times, is — an adventure. It is as if she senses that there should be difficulty in newness, that in regularity lies comfort. And so she narrows her very large eyes whenever her uncaring parents try to introduce something preliminarily, such as bananas or other non-blueberry-based solid foods.
Yet we’ve found that she also bores easily. She enjoys kitchen utensils because she can cycle through them. She is pacified when being wheeled through the Brooklyn Museum by one of her somehow not haggard grandparents, looking at the kaleidoscope of paintings. They’ve gone a lot. It’s pay what you will.
There is a contradiction in this, her annoyance at firsts but also yearning for new experience. Perhaps she thinks the best thing is over the horizon. But when she gets there, it’s just the same car seat she’s been in before. I’m sure that at this age I’m mostly reading myself into her, but then I watch myself try to, say, deploy her first Halloween costume. She hates it. Then it’s alright, for stroller trick or treating. An hour later, she’s ready for her bulldog or something new.
I've been occupied with all this recently with the approach of The Baby’s first birthday and also Thanksgiving — the end of the firsts. She'll never have another first birthday. This was her second Thanksgiving.
In a certain way, I’ve been happy about this shift. Soon The Baby will be able to thrillingly tell us why she likes the dinosaur book and also go to college. There are so many exciting firsts to come in between, along with all the perfect regularity.
On the other hand, my wife’s wisdom (as it tends to) is starting to work its way through me. Arrayed in front of us is a diminishing field of firsts. Each one arriving is immediately past.
Columnist Mark Chiusano's opinions are his own.