I've been noticing lately all of the things about which Jack gets excited - things that we adults take for granted or may not even notice. Last Friday, I took him to the mall, a place we don't frequent, to buy some fall clothes for him. He was fairly patient for a 2 1/2 year old while I sorted through racks of 2T's and 3T's, trying to find jeans to fit his skinny little body, but what he got really excited about was the escalators. He loved riding up and down them, and a couple of times I coaxed him into "just one more store" by promising a titillating escalator ride afterward. I mean, if you think about it, they're pretty cool - moving stairs! You don't even have to walk, and the hand rail moves too! If you'd never seen the like, you'd be pretty impressed.
There are all sorts of things Jack loves that we adults tend not to see. Every time we go to my parents' house, we drive by a fire station. He waits with baited breath to see if the garage doors are open and if the "big truck" and the "tiny truck" are out on the driveway. If they are, we speculated about what the fire fighters are doing with them that day. If the doors are closed, we talk about why that might be, too. I'm not sure I'd even have noticed there was a fire station there if Jack weren't so interested.
Jack also jumps out of bed on trash day to watch the truck that picks up our lawn refuse bags - his favorite of all the trucks, because there's a guy on the back who gets off to chunk the bags into the truck. If we're lucky, we even get to see them use the compactor to crush all the leaves and sticks. Of course, the recycle truck and regular ol' trash truck are also cause to run out in the front yard, naked if necessary (Jack's naked, not me.) If it were not for this kid, I'd not know so much about how our trash is collected.
One Sunday a couple of months ago, for a treat, Jason and I took Jack out for ice cream after dinner. Jason had just had his wisdom teeth out, so it was a treat for him too. When we announced our post-dinner excursion to Jack, he ran around the downstairs, jumping and cheering like he'd won the lottery. Watching that was almost more fun than the ice cream itself. That's the great thing about kids, though. They don't need to win a bunch of money to get a thrill. Two dollars worth of ice cream (or a free escalator ride) will do it.
I suppose there is some advantage to growing up and not responding to every stimulus with such enthusiasm. It would be pretty pathetic after all, if I still cheered when I put all the pee-pee in the potty or managed to put on my own shoes. But one of the great things about being around young children is their infectious enthusiasm. Watching Jack run and play in the rain makes feel nostalgic for doing the same when I was a kid. And his rapt attention to the world's less-noticed details reminds me how amazingly complex and fascinating our world really is. I try to hold on to that for myself and for Jack, because I know that all too soon, Jack will be a jaded teenager, bored with the simple things that used to entertain him so thoroughly. But if you can hold a snapshot of some of those things in your mind, a bit of that sense of childlike fascination and wonder, maybe you'll be just a bit happier.