With utter delight, he gobbles down bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, a sliver of a grilled cheese sandwich, and slices of chicken. He chews, smells, then smears his food on his highchair, his dimpled cheeks, and his tiny chin. Some bits of bites he tosses over the edge of the tray, surprised to see his meal on the floor below. He babbles and waves his arms as he awaits another spoonful of yogurt then runs it ‘round his mouth and grins as bright as sunshine at dawn. Food is a tangible joy to this one-year-old grandson of mine. He tastes the world, not just at mealtime, but all the time.
He is sampling his way around his universe.
Everything is worthy of a taste, a try: pine straw that sits atop the grassy backyard, burnt-orange maple leaves, a wooden brown-and-yellow giraffe puzzle piece, held tightly in his fist, the bunched cotton material near his mouth that pooches up when I zip him into his footie pajamas, thick cardboard pages of his new book Jamberry, his soft blanket, the strong swing strap that holds him tight as he flies through the air, his precious ten little fingers when nothing else satisfies.
Where we adults are prim and proper, using knife and fork to eat our food, he feels his meals: the textures of squishy squash and firm cheese, of gooey yogurt and crunchy cereal. His fingers are as green as the avocado and as orange as the sweet potato; his face a mishmash of color and flavor. He engages fully with every sense every moment he is awake. He strokes the cat’s fur, sometimes grabbing a handful. Then, if no one notices quick enough, he aims it straight for his mouth.
He scoots across the rug, pulls himself upright around the coffee table. On tippy toes he edge his way over, lunges for the mug left there by one of the houseful of adults gathered to celebrate his first year of life. He slurps the ladder as he’s helped up it so he can then coast down his miniature slide. His fingers, nose, tongue are all on the go as fast as his little legs are, feeling their way through his day.
We think we’ve gathered to help him catch on to this thing called life as we celebrate him, this starter of a new generation.
Instead, he is doing the celebrating and we are beginning to catch on once more how to gobble most anything, tasting our way through the day, sampling our way across our universe, echoing joy with grins as bright as the sunshine.
In the serious business of sampling the world, I had almost forgotten the taste of wonder.