Saturday, June 2, 2007

Children in the Surf

I'm having a Dead Poets Society moment.

I found this old film of Coney Island from 1903-04 on YouTube.

The first thing I thought when I saw it was, "Look at all the cute litle toddlers playing in the water." The next thing I thought was, "That was 1903. All those little toddlers are long-since dead."

I love toddlers, and I would love to have been playing in the water with them 100 years ago. And so I can't help but think about the toddlers from 1903, and this wonderful little moment of happiness they shared, and the fact that it's permanently captured on film for a lucky stranger to see 100 years in the future.

Which of them died first, and how? Disease? Accident? War? Did any of them, later in life, look back and say, "I remember my parents taking me to the beach at Coney Island, and I played in the water, and it was one of the happiest memories of my childhood"?

How many really great moments like this did they have in their lives? 100? 1,000? How many will I have? How many will you have?

These are the moments of unadulterated joy that make a life worth living--not only experiencing them personally, but seeing them experienced by others, by my own kids, by complete strangers. It's one of the things that has made being a dad so fulfilling--or maybe the experience of being a dad is what awakened my appreciation of joy; I'm not sure which happened first.

The fact that these little moments of joy were the same in 1903 as they are in 2007 is comforting. I can't quite explain it. But they make the universe a teeny bit less scary.

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