Sunday, March 8, 2009

Once in a Lifetime Experiences

I still vividly remember two specific times during my adult life when I found myself in the presence of something so wonderful and unique to humanity that I completely forgot myself. During these two times, I was struck with such a sense of awe and wonderment that I can still recall both experiences with clarity.
The first was when Mrs. LIAYF and I were traveling in Italy a few years back and we day-tripped to Florence to visit the Ufizi . As I rounded a corner of the museum and spied the David I immediately understood what the fuss was about. Both Mrs. LIAYF were so overcome by its perfection and scale that we spent nearly an hour just gazing at the statue. It was a breathtaking experience that I won't forget. Similarly, when a Van Gogh exhibit came through Seattle a couple of years ago, I found myself transfixed with the famous painting Starry Night. It was as if I was in an empty museum alone with the painting. Everything else moved in the periphery like a blur. I was amazed that humans could create such perfection.

Of course those events both happened before Mrs. LIAYF and I were parents. Today, we realized that another once in a lifetime opportunity to see something amazing was slipping away and we would have to act fast if we were going to 'experience' it. So, we loaded up Lukas and headed downtown to see Lucy's Legacy. Yes, that Lucy, the 3.18 million year old fossil remains universally understood as the most significant archaeological discovery ever made. This was the real thing, not cast reproductions. Although not human made, these fossils are understood to symbolize one step in humanity's evolution.

We were excited to see this exhibit, especially Mrs. LIAYF who studied Lucy as an undergrad. We wanted to be able to appreciate this ancestor to us all. Of course, appreciation takes on a whole new meaning with a 20-month-old in tow. Once at the museum we let Lukas down (with his snack cup) to walk because he needed some excercise. He proceeded to weave in and around one after another unsuspecting patron. He brushed up against one young couple and when they looked down with startled looks on their faces, I dead-paned "Early Humanoid" which brought a chuckle and seemed to give us a pass.

We finally weaved our way to the line to get into see the actual fossil remains, me schlepping all our coats and diaper bag because we didn't bring a stroller. This was up a long ramp and I had to make two running 'saves' as Lukas dropped cheese, bread and his grapes which went speedily rolling past the gathering crowd behind us. To this point in the exhibit I had caught only a couple of glances at some swords and other casted bones. But now it was our time to enter the main exhibit!

We put Lukas in a carrier on Mrs. LIAYF's back so we wouldn't have to chase him around the darkened room. He didn't like this and began to fuss and squirm. We diverted our attention from the displays and attempted to appease him. Then, the crowd parted and we were there, standing in front of the actual 3.18 million year old fossilized bones and a life-sized reproduction model of Lucy. Amazing. However, we had no time to be overwhelmed. Lukas began to fuss again.

"Lukas, it's Lucy" we said as we gazed at the model. "What do you think?" To which he promptly replied rather loudly "Oooo, Oooo, Ooooo. . .Aaaah, Aaaah, Aaaah!"

Granted, she was hairy and very apelike, but that was our cue to go.


Ed said...

I think Florence as a whole was like that. Awe in every direction. I'll never forget climbing to the top of the Duomo there. And I definitely hear you on the Van Gogh--we used to live in Philly and they have a pretty impressive collection. Loved wiling away afternoons just staring with my jaw hanging.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Ed - I wish we could have spent a week in Florence. Funny thing is that I never grew up with any sort of appreciation of art. I never got it. Sometimes it takes something special to help you to understand.

Anonymous said...

I hope Lucy makes her way to Austin sometime soon. Cooper will probably have the same level of appreciation for it as Lukas did, but Kandis and I would be like giddy with excitement. Kind of like toddlers. Hmmm.... Glad you got to see it. Even though Lukas won't remember it, it's a story you'll have for him, and that's what counts :-)

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Rob - If it does, you may want to think about going while Cooper is in daycare. Some of the effect was definitely lost for us.

Captain Dumbass said...

When I was in Florence I missed David because the museum was closed for renos. The Louvre was like that though. Everywhere you turned.

How things change.

Anonymous said...

Good man! It's great that you are starting him out this young on stuff like this. It will really get him to appreciate it later in life and give him some really great memories.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Captain DA - I haven't been to Paris, but perhaps someday. Of course it would have to be when Luke is much older.

Yes, how things change.

@Super Mega Dad - I am sure he will not remember this! It was supposed to be for our benefit but it was just too hard to properly enjoy.

Anonymous said...

when i was in florence...wait i haven't BEEN to florence. well, when i went to the louvre...damn. haven't been THERE either. oh well. i'm pretty sure i saw something about Lucy when i was in Chicago's Museum of Natural History but Seashore's puter ate all of my pics from there so i'm not real sure about that. boy, i'm just a bundle of joy here. can you tell i have travel envy??