Senses of wonder

Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, and feet. It seems like I was just teaching my toddler names of her the body parts and all about her five senses. Oh, to experience the world through the senses of a child — the excitement, the passion — about even small things. Jessie is now a tween, but her enthusiastic reactions to everyday experiences still tickle me. She cherishes the moments with all of her body parts.

Jessie and I recently spent the afternoon together. Our first stop was a restaurant, where I ordered chili. I tried something different and ordered it in a bread bowl. When the waitress brought it, Jessie’s eyes got so wide you’d have thought I won the lottery.

“Dad, you’ll always have to order this!”

Jessie sat across from me behind a huge bowl of salad, chatting happily as she tasted the various nuts, cheeses, and other toppings that decorated the lettuce. Jessie makes full use of her mouth for talking as well as eating, which sometimes gives my ears the sense that they might start bleeding.

After lunch, we shopped. Jessie found a bottle of blue nail polish we thought was 99 cents, but it rang up for 37 cents. I’m not sure when her eyes sparkled more: as she celebrated the fabulous deal, or that evening when she showed off her blue fingernails.

After buying the nail polish, Jessie noticed her favorite store was having a sale: the 75 percent-off sign in the window was a sight to behold.

“Dad, we need to go there right away!”

“Jessie, we need to buy sneakers, not lotions and soaps.”

But she twinkled her pretty eyes, and shoe shopping waited. We left an hour later with a full bag of fragrant treats for her nose.

A few days later, our friend gave Jessie three bottles of perfume. Jessie sprayed the first on her wrists and rubbed them together. She spritzed the second on her mom’s wrist.

“Dad, I have one more to sample.”

“I don’t want to wear ladies’ perfume.”

I said the words — and meant them — but my muscles must not have heard, because I held out my hand, and Jessie sprayed it, then pulled it to her nose. She then dragged my hand, towing me behind, for her mom to sniff.

The next morning, Jessie was still excited about her new perfume. Her mom Mattie sent her back to the bathroom to “tone down the scent.” I told Jessie it might be too much perfume if the teacher at the front of the room can smell her from the back row.

On our shopping trip, we finally found some sneakers for Jessie’s ever-growing feet. (A few days later, I would question whether we needed that purchase when shoeless Jessie stepped onto our pollen-covered driveway in her socks and danced around in the yellow dust as if a light snow had fallen.)

After paying for the sneakers, we browsed the department store.

“Dad, I love this coat. It’s the softest coat in the entire world.”

Jessie repeated this several times, both before and after I purchased the green jacket for her. The next morning, rubbing her hands up and down her plush-covered arms, she was still thrilled.

“I love my fuzzy coat. I’m always going to have a fuzzy coat. I’ll wear it in summer and winter and when I outgrow it, I’ll give it to Momma and get another one.”

On the ride home, Jessie gave the radio buttons on my truck a workout, switching stations to catch songs she liked. Her ears and mine don’t always appreciate the same sounds, but some of her music has grown on me.

At the beginning of our afternoon, before I ate my chili, I texted a photo of it to Mattie. Jessie’s enthusiasm was so contagious, I had to share it.

When I finished the chili, there was a big hole in the bottom of the bread bowl. For some reason, I felt compelled to take an “after photo.” I picked up the bread and held it so that Jessie’s face was visible through the hole, then snapped the picture with my other hand. When I said “Smile,” she smiled, but added, “Dad, don’t play with your food.” I’ve taught my girl well.

She’s taught me, too — to use all my senses, especially a sense of wonder, to get the most out of every day.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments.

If you enjoyed this column, you’ll like Patrick’s first book, “Moments: A Dad Holds On.” The book compiles favorite stories and new material and is available for sale on Amazon.com.

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year-long professional career in banking, accounting, and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer. Follow him at www.facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @PatrickHempfing.