I am beginning to recognize myself in Zoe. She is the most methodical baby I have ever seen. She learns a skill and by gum, she works at it until she has it. She’s been climbing stairs ever since she started walking – up is easy. But for quite a while she had no idea how to get down, or even that she didn’t know how to get down. She’d just turn around and take a big step and tumble into my arms, which was exceptionally nerve-wracking for me and resulted in a lot of gates being placed in our house. Eventually we convinced her that downstairs was different. I taught her to sit down on the step and scootch forward to get her legs down and then stand up on the next step and sit and scootch. She was excited by this new knowledge and wanted to work on it, but I had work to do and wouldn’t leave her unsupervised on the stairs.
It’s been two weeks since then, and we arrived Saturday night at my mother’s house on the way to our Vermont vacation. Her porch is separated from the house by one small step, and Zoe beelined for it as soon as she stopped being hugged. She climbed it, and sat, and scootched, and climbed, and sat, and scootched – for over half an hour! Every time she successfully stood up on the porch floor she crowed with pride, and then spun around and immediately started again. Since then I have seen her twice scootch to the edge of a chair and lower herself to the floor without falling, and scootch to the edge of a one-inch sill between the kitchen and dining room of our camp here in Vermont. The latter is hilarious, because even a tiny girl can easily just step over it, but she is doggedly determined to practice scootching. Just for the sake of getting it.
I have distinct memories of being 12 and learning how to juggle. I practiced first in my bedroom, standing over the bed so the balls wouldn’t roll away on the ground and I didn’t have to bend over too far to reach them. Once I had a certain knack for it I moved out to the main part of the house, and every minute that my hands weren’t otherwise occupied I was juggling. While watching TV, listening to music, or waiting for water to boil. I saw balls arcing over each other in my dreams for days. I did not lose interest until I could actually juggle three balls. I can still do it. Not spectacularly, but competently. Never even mind the oboe, or the reeds, or any of that obsessiveness. Yes, I can certainly see myself in her – she comes by her determination honestly.