“That is one of the reasons why I like to hang out with you: through you I get to live many firsts again.”
Alex told me this as we were lying on our backs after doing my first snow angel. I was listening to him as I had my eyes fixed on the grey sky, mesmerized by the snowflakes falling gently on my face. I could hear a soundtrack running in the back on my head. That is one of the moments where I can earnestly say I experienced an overwhelming sense of awe. The world was new again, if only for a couple of minutes.
That day was full of firsts. I also built my first snowman with two little friends, age 4 and 2, who were doing their first one as well. They have many snowmen to come, but I can’t safely say that about myself. What I do know for sure was my first and last was running from an outdoors jacuzzi (temperature that day was 11ºF/ -11ºC) into the snow and back into the pit of scalding water. Such a strange activity that my host emotionally blackmailed me into doing, but I quickly forgave him after drinking an ice cold beer whilst sitting on the jacuzzi with snowflakes falling all around us. Before that day, I never truly understood a white winter.
One of my favorite firsts came with the unfortunate realization that the city bus does not run on Sundays. That 2.5 mile hike back home became one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. Dripping roofs, friends, dripping roofs. There is a brief moment when negative temperature days turn into above-freezing, and the never-ending snow, which had been around since early November, starts melting away in mid-March. There was something enticing about hearing the continuous drip of every house I passed in that sunny Sunday afternoon. I stepped over lightly frozen water and rejoiced by making it crack before me. I felt like a giant, and this giant felt absolutely hypnotized by the gentle warmth of the sunlight on his face. Before that day, I never truly understood spring awakening.
Indeed Grand Rapids has been a place that has allowed me to first many firsts. Perhaps the one that changed me the most was losing my fear to ride a bicycle. It was the first time. I never learned as a child; my father tried to teach me when I was seven, but I was too afraid of falling off the bike and frustrating my dad. He gave up on teaching me because I gave up on myself. For me, the bicycle was a painful reminder of my failure and I carried that baggage for 18 years. At age 25, though, riding a bike became a sink or swim situation for the first time, since it would drastically change my commuting time. I gave it a shot and I did not die. I tried it again. Result: still alive. I tried again. Result: sprained wrist, bad scrapes and cuts, and a nasty visit to the Urgent Care Center. But the world kept going, despite falling off the bike. Perhaps falling wasn’t so bad after all. Now I cannot go back to not riding my bike. I can’t wait to buy two bicycles in Monterrey and going for a ride with my father. It will be a lovely first.