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A hiking buddy became a dad for the first time, and we were discussing the “firsts” in his baby’s future. I considered the idea of “firsts” later that evening, and how they continue throughout our lives. In fact, metaphysics purports that nothing remains the same, so every nanosecond of your life is yet another first.

Trolling my memory banks, these random “firsts” popped up:

  • Television appearance: I was in grade school when my younger brothers and I appeared on a local children’s show because a friend of the family worked for the station. The three of us sat side-by-side along with seven other children on a two-level bleacher. I absolutely died of embarrassment when I noticed one of my brothers picking his nose.
  • Introduction to the disabled: There was a special education extension to my grade school, and two students my age shared our black top playground. One was a “white” girl with frizzy hair and a leg brace, and the other a “black” blind girl who would constantly swing her head back and forth while shaking her hands up and down. For some reason, somebody decided that the blind girl was cool and the one with the leg brace was not.
  • Skipping: My favorite part of kindergarten.
  • Loss of loved one: A cousin just a couple of years older than I was killed in an auto accident after being thrown out of the vehicle and landing on the back of his head. The open-casket service choice was ill-advised. I can still see the poorly applied toupee sticking up.
  • Spending the night at my grandparents’ house, without my parents: I was only about five years old and woke up in the middle of the night by the sound of a growling bear. I was abjectly terrified and could not go back to sleep. The next morning, when my grandmother asked how I slept, I told her about the bear. Her brow furrowed with deep concentration as she tried to determine what I had actually heard, and then she burst out laughing. “Oliver!” she called out. “Julie heard you snoring and thought you were a bear!”
  • Someone laughing at my joke: Sitting in the back of the car during a long four-hour drive home, my father changed the radio station to one that played country-and-western music. I chirped up, “What is that?” “KRAK.” “Well, you have to be cracked to listen to it,” I grumbled. My parents both cracked up.
  • Loss of pet: An Easter chick gift grew into a homicidal rooster, chasing everyone around the yard and pecking their legs. It disappeared one day after a neighbor became tired of its crowing at dawn’s early light. At least, that’s what my parents told me. My father confessed years later that, his tolerance evaporated, he grabbed an ax and chopped the beast’s head off.
  • Job: As with other teenage girls around the country, my first paying gig was babysitter. I was taught in Campfire Girls that you should never fall asleep when watching someone’s children. I kept splashing my face with cold water trying to stay awake until the parents finally arrived home a little past 2:00 a.m.
  • Speeding ticket: I was 18 years old, driving my first car, a 1963 VW bug, down the freeway at over 70 m.p.h. That’s what the officer told me as he shook his head in amazement that the car could hit that speed. I was mentally shaking my head in confusion, when he started ranting about people dying in Vietnam.
  • Broken bone: On the third date with my future ex-husband, I fell into his bathtub, breaking my elbow joint. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you the story.

As a personal historian-biographer my questions often include first job, first car, etc. as they are common experiences. Included in my biography projects are interviews with family members.

While interviewing a woman for her grandmother’s biography, she asked me why I would want to make a living listening to people’s stories. After all, she claimed, some of the stories have probably been told over and over again.

Smiling, I responded, “But, it’s the first time I have heard them.”

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