Friday, February 18, 2005

A Matter of Perspective

Today, Sadie and I got the baby backpack out, as has become our habit on sunny days, and went for a walk. Usually we go to the shopping center about a mile away or the library about 1.5 miles away, or, if there have been three sunny days in a row, we go to the neighborhood park. Since the sun has been shining all week, it was bound to be a park day. We set off merrily, sweet Sadie perched koala-like upon my back, singing songs, saying "hi" to people, dogs, birds and flowers. I decided to take a bit of a long route to the park, so I went about 1/2 mile out of the way and approached the park from an opposite entrance of our usual one. Sadie, who almost always starts yelling, "Park! Park!" when we turn down the usual street, remained completely unaware of our destination. Even when we could see the slides and swings, she still seemed rather confused as to where we were. Eventually, when we settled the backpack on the ground near our favorite park bench, Sadie got excited and ran off toward the swings.

This experience made me remember how different perspective is when you are a little one. The only time I ever recall being sent to bed without dinner was the time I got myself lost by crossing the street. I think I was punished for crossing the street alone, because I was never lost to my parents, as I was always within sight of the house. I'll never forget that day, though. I can't remember my exact age - probably between four and five. I wasn't trying to run away, or even go anywhere if I recall correctly. Somehow, I ended up crossing the quiet residential street where we lived and promptly became hopelessly lost. I remember looking around, not knowing where I was. I probably saw our house right across the street where I had left it, but failed to recognize it. I had never seen it from that angle before, so it was a foreign entity to me. I stared down the seemingly endless sidewalk, bordered by strange and now slightly threatening houses and lawns and trees and more and more houses. I made up my mind that I would walk to the grocery store where we shopped (probably 4 miles away) and tell them my parents' names and have them call my parents to come pick me up. How I ever thought I'd find my way to the store, I'll never know. That was my drastic, yet apparently rational, plan of action. Now, keep in mind that this was in the late 1970s, when a few Californians, my parents included, actually knew and interacted with their neighbors. You would think that I could have just gone to a neighbor's house and asked for help. Except, in losing my house, I lost my perspective of where any familiar house was. Crying and bewildered, I started stumbling down the street. Then, my dad bounded across the street and grabbed me and carried me back to our house (25 steps away). My mighty and perilous adventure had probably lasted less than 5 minutes. Oh boy - my parents yelled and hollered and spanked and sent me to bed without supper. The only reason I can imagine for this exaggerated response was their wishing to instill upon me that crossing streets alone was a big no-no. The funny thing is, and I can remember thinking this at the time, I had never even wanted to cross the street. I hadn't even known that I was across the street. I just became somehow so wrapped up in my child's imagination that I was simply oblivious.

This memory is one of the scariest things about being a parent. The wonderful world of children just captivates them so completely that it leaves them terribly vulnerable. The price of the immeasurable joys of parenthood is eternal vigilance.

Jason will read this and knowingly nod his head, experienced as he is with my formidable sense of direction and my comprehensive geographical expertise. He will know now that the woman who gets lost coming home from the post office was once a little girl who got lost crossing the street. Heck, I've gotten lost (sort of) a few times in our own neighborhood. I've always managed to find my way back, and at least the grocery store is a lot closer now if I need to call for a pick-up. Maybe I am still too wrapped up in my imagination, the richness of my interior world. I would have made a lousy pioneer wife (although I make darn good cornbread).

I got my mom and dad to show me later where they found me when I was lost. Even at that young age, I remember being a little embarassed when we crossed the street (holding hands, looking both ways) and stood just a few feet south of directly, smack-dab across from our house. I felt so foolish to look at our yellow house, with its distinctive front hedges and think that I missed it. I totally missed it. I don't know if they ever believed me when I said I was lost - it must have seemed incredible to them. I'm glad I remember it, though. Now, when Sadie doesn't know where we are, I know how it appears to her, and I can help her with perspective.

Sometimes, I just get down and spend some time at her height. It's a different world down there - chairs are huge! Trying to see the world from her point of view is eye-opening, to say the least. They see so much that we miss from 5 1/2+ feet off the ground, and they miss so much that we see. Their perspective is unique, their scope is narrow. Our perspective is universal, our scope is broad. There is beauty in both, and my hope is that, as Sadie grows, she will be able to integrate these visions to appreciate still the details of this world while, at the same time, not missing the big picture (or the house right across the street!).

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