A year of firsts

Who doesn’t remember his or her firsts?

A first kiss.

A first byline.

A first anniversary.

But how much more special is it when you get to experience someone’s first as well.

Working two jobs, I haven’t gotten to experience many firsts with my daughter. My wife has enjoyed that luxury.

But one first I got over the rest I won’t soon forget. Shortly after her first birthday, my wife and I went for a weekend away in-between sports seasons and my in-laws watched our daughter.

When we returned that Sunday afternoon to their house to pick her up, she and I were in the living room. She had not walked on her own to that point.

But I was sitting on the floor probably five steps away and I was encouraging to come over to me. With that, she threw caution to wind, let go of the chair and walked over to me. I got to see the first time she walked on her own. And since, she’s been walking away with my heart.

It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. I love seeing her grow up but it crushes me to realize she’s not that little baby anymore.

This past year, I got to experience two firsts of someone else.

My son turned 11 this summer and in the last year or so has taken a keen interest in all things Star Wars. He’s been playing with the LEGOs, reading the comic books and some of the junior books.

I was 2 when the first movie came out and my parents took me to see it at the movie theatre. Not because they wanted me to see it but because they were too poor (or more likely, too frugal) to afford a babysitter. It’s my first memory of anything that young and one that I still remember bits and pieces of.

It began a love affair for me.

I now have an 8-foot Star Wars Christmas tree stocked with ornaments because nothing says birth of a savior like a lightsaber, a blaster pistol and Yoda. My basement is full of boxes of toys that can’t be played with and posters that can’t be unrolled. I haven’t showed my son those. It would be like taking him to a free toy store and telling him we couldn’t get anything.

Being that he lives in Minnesota most of the year, I haven’t been able to experience a lot of firsts with him either. But this summer, I got one.

That fateful week, each night was filled with popcorn, excitement and a young man glued to the TV watching every second of the movie like his 11-year-old existence depended on hearing every word and seeing each glorious bit of the greatest trilogy ever made.

The fun was watching him react to things I knew were coming and he had no idea. Like when a bat-like creature (a mynock) attached itself to the front of a window of a ship suddenly and watching my son shoot into the air off his chair in surprised shock. Or watching him when Darth Vader revealed to Luke Skywalker that he was Luke’s father.

It brought tears to my eyes to see him fall in love with a fantasy universe that has for years allowed me to dream of things not possible in our world and captivated my imagination.

A week later, my son calls me to tell me the release year on the new Star Wars movie they are currently making and sharing he hopes we can see it together.

Six months later, I got another first but not with my son.

Recently, I’ve been given the privilege of mentoring a boy in my community. ? met him through church and have spent a lot of time with him over the last few months of the year as we prepared a local production of A Modern Day Scrooge.

He lives with a house full of Ohio State fans but when I first met him he showed up with a winter hat, complete with flaps, emblazoned with a beautiful block M on it. He’s a Michigan fan and not afraid to share it with anyone.

I grew up outside of Ann Arbor. My parents were season ticket holders for Michigan for 16 years before moving to warmer climates. I bleed maize and blue and I know there have been some Ohio State fans who have wanted to beat me blue to see if that’s true.

I remember going to games with family, tailgating with our friends and singing the best fight song in the land with 100,000 of my closest friends on game day.

But my new friend hadn’t had the chance to experience that. As it turns out, Santa must have realized that because we both received tickets from Santa to go see Michigan play this past Saturday. And even though I was sick that day, I toughed it out. I wasn’t going to miss this chance.

As we were driving up with other Michigan fans from church, he shared with the car he had never been in Michigan before, outside of a few minutes.

So to see his face as we walked on campus and next to the Big House was marvelous. Seeing his eyes light up when we first walked through the concourse and into the arena and he saw the court with his hoops heroes warming up below was a treat. Watching him belt out “Hail” and pump his fist during the fight song made my sick self feel a little bit better, even if it was for a few fleeting moments.

We ate popped Maize and wandered the arena. We shot virtual baskets and hoped to see a slam dunk. Given that the opponent was Holy Cross, we got to see several.

As we headed back to the truck after the game, he shared that he had a blast.

I did too, but for a different reason.

It’s not every day that you get to experience someone else’s first.

And I hope it’s not my last.

Aaron Korte is an A-T sports writer. He can be reached at akorte(at)advertiser-tribune.com. You can follow him on Twitter (at)KorteClarkKent.