My son is turning 11 months old tomorrow. When we go out for a walk, almost everything is exciting. I try to introduce something new to him as often as possible, and that's stunningly easy. When not giving it much thought, I'm inclined to think bigger things, things that seem a bit special even to me: the animals at the farm, the playground, stuff like that. And of course he loves it. But a flower, a sparrow. A passing dog or cat. That's at least as new and exciting for him. If I didn't enjoy his amazement so much, I would almost be jealous; you can only experience something for the first time once.
Yesterday I took him for a walk in his stroller to the park, and I picked him a leaf from a chestnut tree. At first he wasn't too sure what to do with it. He put it next to him in his seat. Then, a few minutes later, he started looking at it again and touching, feeling it. After a while he accidentally ripped off a piece and shrieked with joy. Off came the next piece, and the next. Soon all he had left in his hands was the little branch in the middle.
I gave him another, similar leaf. It was still fun, maybe even more so, but without that surprise, without the first big excitement. On to the next new thing.
I'm 32 years old. In my daily life there's not a lot of pure excitement going on. I've seen everything, or take everything for granted. As much as I can enjoy the new flowers and leaves in springtime, it would be a stretch to claim that they excite me, or surprise me.
This weekend a 7"-shaped package arrived. Every time I see that on our doormat my heart beats a bit faster. I walked up the stairs to get to my turntable. I started unpacking the single with growing anticipation. I put the seven inches of grey vinyl on the deck, put the needle on the spinning record, leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. This is my moment. This is that unique once in a lifetime chance for a 30-something. Only this very first spin contains that uniqueness, the magical unknown, the anticipation, and I try to make sure it's not lost on me.
By the second, twentieth or fivehundreth time you hear a song you may love or hate it a lot more than you did that first time, but you can never repeat the magic.
It's so easy nowadays to download a song or an album from the internet. It's so tempting to quickly skip through a record to get an impression, or to give it a first spin while vacuuming the house. But I really try to restrain myself. Aging has quite naturally limited the opportunity to experience new things. One of the most wonderful things about music is the chance it provides to step back into the feeling of holding that chestnut leaf for the first time. The feeling of not knowing what will come, of not having an opinion ready. After ripping off the first pieces of leaf, analyzing it, judging it until left with the essence, the branch, you may come to the first decisions about pleasure, indifference or dislike. But it always happens in a unique moment of pure, incomparable 'once in a lifetime'.
"Papa", he says. "Papapapapa!". He throws away the leaf and we walk back home, refreshed, but with one less new thing to discover. With a strange, but good ache in my heart, my head fills up with music:
"Will you give me your hand so I can pretend
I'm holding it for the first time?
Let's do everything for the first time forever"
1. of Montreal - Let's do everything for the first time forever