Monday, November 29, 2010

A Christmas Lighthouse

Last night we were driving to a Christmas music concert when my almost-two year old daughter kept screeching out from the backseat, "Tris-mas Tree! Tris-mas Tree!" It was dark outside, but all around us neighborhood houses twinkled beneath garlands of lights, and Christmas trees beckoned from front windows like lighthouses. Every few seconds another exclamation came from the backseat, and we laughed at her unflagging, little girl enthusiasm.

We were listening to Christmas carols while we drove, and right at that moment the song, Deck the Halls came on. After listening intently to the chorus line, our youngest joined right in, belting out hearty "Fa la la la las" in time with the song. There wasn't anything new or particularly special about last night. We've seen the neighborhood lights. We've all slogged through the chorus of Deck the Halls a gazillion times. Yet it was new, and it did feel special, because it was her first time experiencing these things.

When you watch other people's kids marvel at the world around them, it can be cute for a few minutes. But most of the time, I think adults witness the joy of little kids and react like Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber: "Big gulps huh? Well, see ya' later." A moment of feigned interest, and then you're off, back to your own life. It's different when the awe and amazement is coming from your own child.

Besides the spiritual reasons for having children, or the more practical "propogate the human species" sorts of arguments, I can think of one other important motive. Very few adults have the ability to remember much about their "Firsts." Your first time touching snow. Your first time tasting sugar. Your first time seeing Christmas lights glow in the dark, or singing "Fa la la la la." But when you have a child you get to do these things all over again. The amazement is real and fresh. And the world never looks and feels as beautiful as it does through your child's eyes. On your own, you might have driven right past, never knowing any different, and too focused on the lines on the road to care. Without the little girl calling out from the back seat last night, I probably wouldn't have glanced over at the houses with their tree-lit windows and thought, "Hey, in the dark that looks kind of like a light house."

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