Grade One

I don’t have any children (that I know about), but I’m surrounded by toddlers– and I love it. I get a glimpse of the absolute joy of parenting when I interact with the young’uns who surround me, especially my parents’ neighbours, two adorable half-Korean kids named Nathan and Claire, who consider my parents to be their secondary grandparents, and me to be their big brother of sorts.

There is an indescribably perfect feeling of bliss when I’m walking towards my parents’ house and one of the kids notices me a block away, then races the distance to jump into my arms. Yes, it’s a sappy thing to write, but so what? It’s the truth.

Today is Claire’s graduation from kindergarten. She will start grade 1 in the fall, and just came by to tell me all about it.

The funny thing is that I remember my last day of kindergarten and first day of grade 1 (it was the same day) like it was yesterday. I remember it with the emotional complexity of a fully formed human being, and not with that of the proto-chimps we sometimes consider children to be. As a result, I’m constantly aware that little children see the world as fully as we do, only a little more honestly and lacking only in information and experience.

On my first day of grade 1, I was terrified (as usual), and cowered in the corner, checking out all my new fellow students. Then into that room walked a vision of perfect 5 year old femininity: a little blonde girl named Allison Cameron, bedecked in a flowing white princess dress.

It was toddler love at first sight, a love that did not dissipate for years, well into my pre-teen agonies.

I am convinced that the emotional impact of seeing Allison that first day allowed me to anchor those experiences solidly in my living memory, as that little experience proved to form the bedrock of my thoughts, ambitions and conceptualizations for years to come. Yes, sad as it may sound, pretty much everything I’ve done in my life has been somehow linked to the unrequited love of some woman or other. Or spite. Both are excellent motivators.

Before you get any weird ideas, I lost my obsession with the lovely Miss Cameron very early on, though we remained friends, then acquaintances, well past the high school years.

However, her impact on me has been immortalized in the short story, “Sanjay & Allison“, which has since been reproduced in several venues.

I can’t help but wonder what impactive experiences Claire will have in her first days of grade 1, that will linger with her for years, and form the basis of her personality for the rest of her life.