Sunday was such a fine spring day, our whole family went outside, just to be and enjoy. My oldest daughter (7) has learned how to jump rope, so the four of us took turns attempting every conceivable jump-rope variation. My youngest daughter (5) worships her older sister, and predictably tries to do everything the older sister does, loudly proclaiming her panache where technique is clearly lacking.
The oldest did most of the skipping, really getting the rhythm down and keeping in synch. The youngest watched without interruption, mesmerized by the display. Finally she called out for a turn, and my wife and older daughter got the rope going.
To everyone's amazement, my five-year-old went ahead and skipped, first try. She had internalized the rhythm, and just naturally adjusted her feet to the rope. The rest of us hooted, cheered and whistled, and she continued for quite a stretch until it all came to a crashing halt. We tried again several times after that, but the spell was broken.
So now I have this vision of my youngest daughter, jumping rope, her eyes focused on something wonderful, something we are all seeing for the first time. She is unexpectedly able, but she still has the clumsiness that comes with a first attempt. She lands with flat feet, an effect magnified by the size of her shoes. She's wearing her older sister's hand-me-down sneakers, and they are too large for her. I'm caught so completely off guard, I'm thinking she might as well be wearing a pair of my shoes.
But this silent exaggeration is just a form of denial on my part - because how else can I possibly respond to something so exhilarating, and heartbreaking, as seeing my youngest child grow into a pair of shoes, and learn how to jump?