As we age we have fewer and fewer ‘firsts’.
In fact, it’s a rare occasion when we divert ourselves from the day-to-day monotony of adulthood to explore new areas, try new foods, or take part in new activities.
As adults, we’re just too busy going to work, picking little ones up from daycare, getting supper on the table, and finding time to play with the kids before jettisoning them off to bed, before crashing on the couch for an hour or two.
When you have kids, it’s a Monday to Sunday routine, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, just being in the same house as The Hurricane on a daily basis is all I need to keep me going.
But there are times where I long for an adventure, something completely new and exhilarating, something I can look back on in a few years and say, ‘Wow, that was really awesome’.
I guess the last time I had that feeling was in 2004/05, as The Boss and I backpacked across New Zealand and Australia, after quitting our jobs and selling our house in Alberta and moving back to Ontario with no plans except a whirlwind trip around parts of the world The Boss had always wanted to see. Luckily, she convinced me over a year or so that I wanted to quit my job, leave the security of a company I had a good future in, and become a backpacker too.
Since we were the most senior of rookies on the backpacking tour — I turned 25 early into our journey, while The Boss turned 24 a day or two before we left — and we were the only married backpackers we met (tourists aren’t the same), we soaked in as much of the experience as we could, knowing full well it would be our one and only chance for such a carefree life, unlike the 18- to 21-year-olds, who said they’d see the Great Barrier Reef “next time”. Sha. Right.
But the experience that still sticks out in my mind the most, even after all this time, is skydiving in Taupo, New Zealand, with the mountain used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a backdrop. I’d love to say I was first in line, ready to be strapped to my dive partner, and eager to feel the wind on my face. Instead, I was the pussy who hoped he was too far over the 190 lb. weight limit (they made an exception for my 10 or 12 extra pounds), then paced the building like a man in a maternity ward in the 1950’s (I don’t know what that means), and finally only signed with shaky hand after an ecstatic 70-something woman came running in off the tarmac after her successful jump and The Boss looked at me with those “What, are you gonna let some Grandma outdo you?” eyes.
The flight up was nice — great scenery that Taupo — although the benches that slanted towards the open door were a bit unnerving. Then people started to disappear. They were actually jumping out of the goddamned plane! As people in front of me dropped to what I assumed was their sure death, my partner began pushing me towards that gaping door. Although I dug my heels in like a cowboy dragging behind a roped steer, I was no match for this experienced skydiver. We got to the door, he sat me down on the edge and my feet dangled into oblivion. I looked down at Lake Taupo below and, in hindsight, it was beautiful, but at the time, I think I pooped a little.
Then he forced my head back onto his shoulder (to avoid my head snapping back and knocking him out) and we fell into nothing.
You lose your breath, y’know, those first five or 10 seconds. But when it comes back, and you are weightless and screaming towards the earth at 1,000 miles an hour, and your mind is racing but not with fear but pure glee — giddiness even — it is an unexplainable feeling.
Then the parachute gets pulled, your nuts get ripped up into your throat, and you begin your slow descent towards the earth, whooping and screaming and telling your partner he has the greatest fuckin’ job on earth about 200 times, and taking in the breathtaking scenery, and realizing that you have just experienced the most amazing minute of your entire life.
After landing, and being freed from my abductor, I ran towards The Boss, who was the last to land. We hugged and jumped and screamed and talked over each other, because neither of us could form a complete thought, but we had so much to say.
The reason I’m reflecting on this today is because The Hurricane has discovered the 18-month-old’s version of free falling — the two-footed jump. Last night, instead of skipping around in a circle, she was getting full air. Bending both her knees and jumping.
Now, she’s not ready for the NBA just yet, but there was definitely daylight underneath those feet, and, judging by the smiles and screams of delight coming from her, my best guess is she was sharing the experience I had in 2004.
It may seem like the two are unrelated — one a 9,000 foot drop from a plane, the other an inch high ‘leap’ into the air — but can you imagine the feeling of freedom a child must have the first time they are airborne?
The first time they experience gravity (at least intentionally, butter fingers). The first time they reach for the sky, lift their feet from the ground, with no net below them and nobody catching them and then stick the landing.