We go through life experiencing things. It is from these experiences that our own personal world and how we interact with the greater world is formed. But what about first experiences? You know, the first time you’ve truly experienced something. I guess one could argue that the unpredictability and fragility of life lends itself to the fact that each day we are experiencing something for the first time, because each day is different from the last. But I’m talking about those first experiences that you will never forget or the ones that you are dying to remember, especially those ones that as you age you wish you could reel in from your long-term memory bank. Who wouldn’t want to relive that moment you first rode a roller coaster? Or that time you first read a book on your own unassisted by anyone else? Or those feelings you experienced when you had your first crush? Or perhaps that moment you first are sitting in the car in the seat directly behind the driver’s wheel?
As we get older I can’t help but feel these first experiences tend to be fewer and far between. Maybe I simply find it more difficult to look at events and actions with the same eyes that looked at the events and experiences from my childhood. The exact events that always seemed to intrigue and captivate our eyes. I wish I could recall memories from my youth of first making a basket shooting over hand on my patio on the family basketball hoop or the first time I pushed through the turnstile to enter the fantasy world of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I can’t. But the great thing about experiences is you can experience something through the body and the eyes of the others that surround you.
Taking care of the Trishlets for the past two years has afforded me the opportunity to do just that. And if you were looking for a group of individuals to see the world through a different lens, those three two-year-olds are your perfect candidates. I’ve witnessed their first word, their first tooth coming in, their first tooth being knocked out, their first experience staying upright and moving forward for more than two feet, their first biting of one another’s arm, their first completion of a somewhat complicated puzzle, their first rendition of singing the alphabet completely off-key and with letters omitted (but nonetheless adorable), and their first Houdini act of escapism from their crib. Each day as they get bigger and gain independence getting to witness them navigate this world has been truly special. And as they experience things for the first time I find myself stepping back and actively thinking of what it must feel like to accomplish, participate, and take hold of things as a toddling two-year-old.
One recent experience that grabbed me as it was happening and made me watch with deliberate eyes was their first adventure to the movies. Their parents decided to surprise them and take them to see their first movie, The Minions. And since they are two-year-old triplets, and since they would be in a public forum, I decided to tag along. While a one-to-one ratio is not a necessity it is preferred, especially when you add in their rambunctious five-year old brother. The Minions was the perfect choice – three main minion characters that speak a language that no one understands, getting themselves into ridiculous situations, and performing silly hijinks – how could they possibly relate to any of these themes.
This was their first experience going to the movies and I was excited to see how it all would unfold. I desperately wish I could remember my first time stepping into the dark abyss of a movie theater recalling the sights and sounds, but getting to witness these two and half-year old triplets experience it for the first time may have been even better. The thing about experiencing something for the first time is, there is no protocol. You often are of unsure of how to act and you make meaning as you traverse your way through. And from my observations and mental pictures taken of them experiencing the act of going to the movies for the first time, I imagine the internal dialogue for the three of them went something like this:
Approaching the exterior:
What is this place with big doors? Is this church? Church has big doors. But wait isn’t it Sunday, didn’t we already go to church? Please, tell me we aren’t going to church again. I’m not ready to sing “Alleluia” once more. Wait a minute, based on Joey’s excitement, I know this cannot be church.
Approaching the ticket sales guy:
Who is this boy speaking to us from behind a window and asking Mommy if she has tickets? Tickets for what, a train? Who cares what he says. Let me just proceed through these next doors anyway without any ticket, who is going to stop me I’m two. I can rob this joint and wouldn’t be stopped. See no one stopped me even though you supposedly need tickets for this place that we are currently standing in. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.
Approaching the concession stand:
Wow so many pictures of popcorn. I guess there is eating at this place and drinking too. This open space near the popcorn and drinks is the perfect place to run around so I guess that’s what I’ll do. Oh I get it. Mommy and Daddy brought us here to run, because we certainly don’t do enough of it at our house. Maybe this is some sort of playground. We run here then we eat popcorn. We must eat all the popcorn sparing none.
Approaching the specific theater:
Where are we going? I thought we were going to stay by the food. Food is where I need to be at all times or else you know how this is will turn out. I won’t have a snack and you will not want to be around me. While we are on that subject, why is that? Why is it that when I don’t have a snack other people around me get upset when I start to cry about it. I think you big people have greatly underestimated the importance of snacks. Because if you didn’t, you would fully understand why tears are drawn over not receiving a snack.
Inside the movie theater:
Why are there chairs and chairs and chairs? And rows, oh no have we’ve been fooled into going to another type of church? We get to try out each of the chairs, right? Sit on one decide if it is too big or too small or just right. Let’s test this row and sit for thirty seconds and test another row. Wowie, I was too busy finding the perfect chair that I guess I failed to notice the great big screen over there. Is that a huge TV screen? Where are we? And why do Mommy, Daddy, and Aunt Debbie keep excitedly saying Minions. And wait a second do I have sunglasses on? Why is it so dark in here? Is it bedtime?
Receiving snacks before the movie begins:
I like this place. I told you snacks bring happiness and joy. How could you not like this place? It has snacks that we can eat while we sit and look at the massive screen. And there are other people here too, so they must like snacks and massive screens as well.
The previews begin to roll:
Oh la la, look at the bright lights and the loud noises. From my two- year-old powers of deduction, I can now safely assume that’s what the big screen is for. Was that the whole movie? 3 minutes long – I hope you didn’t pay a lot for these tickets Mommy. Wait a second, another movie? Haha that cat is silly. 3 minutes long again? Where are these minions you speak so highly of? Anyways, minions or not I guess this is still pretty cool. I get to eat popcorn, drink a little juicy, and watch 3 minute movies, oh the life.
The feature presentation debuts:
Whoa, whoa, whoa, it just got really dark in here. We don’t watch movies like this at home. Usually the lights are on and one of us is crying over something or another. And usually we sit all around the room not in this lineup. Do we sit or do we stand? Who cares, I’ll do both.
“Minions funny, minions are silly!” Why is Mommy signaling me with her one finger over her mouth? Oh right, she is shushing me. What no talking is allowed? What is this naptime? Oh ok, so this is a bit longer than three minutes. Why is that mommy close to the front laughing? Did I miss something? I just hope it wasn’t something funny. And how am I still allowed to be eating this much popcorn? Did mommy and daddy pass out and not notice the obscene amount of popcorn I have consumed? Is this place some sort of heaven?
The feature presentation comes to a close:
What is this? Is the action over? Where are the minions? And why is the screen black with things scrolling across it? Kevin, Bob, Stuart, where did you guys go? I want to see more of the minions. They made me laugh. I want more. Oh wait, Mommy and Daddy are standing. Does that mean we have to leave? Why are people leaving? Can’t we just sit, eat some more popcorn, and watch some more movies. 3 minutes or longer I don’t care the length, just give me more movie. I guess we have to go. Mommy is saying something about going home. But why can’t we make this our home. Oh wait, Aunt Debbie has to go to the potty. This place has potties too, who knew!
Yes, how wonderful it would be if we could open up our brains and reach in and grab the file that stores our first experiences with doing something, but sometimes it can be even more rewarding experiencing it through someone else. Experiences like going to the movies for the first time for my sister’s triplets highlighted how it is often difficult to make sense of something when you are first experiencing it, but eventually these experiences and routines become so automatic and predictable that we can’t remember a time when we didn’t know what would happen or we didn’t know how to act appropriately. The saying may go: “out of the mouths of babes,” but I like to think of it also as: “through the eyes of babes.” My firsts may not occur as frequently anymore, but they’re just getting started on theirs, and I know that I’ll take great pleasure in watching them experiencing it all.