One small drop for man, one giant leap for toys, amusement park rides, science experiments and imagination, today the Google doodle celebrates the 216th anniversary of the first parachute jump.
“The doodle is based on André-Jacques Garnerin's daring leap on Oct. 22, 1797 at Parc Monceau in Paris, which saw the then 28-year-old leap from a balloon using a seven-metre silk parachute that resembled an umbrella,” according to the Google doodle website.
The reason this event is important to parents is that without that first jump no little boy – or girl – would ever have a plastic army man to toss off a balcony, no raw egg would make it safely to the ground when tossed off a building in a science class experiment, and Disneyland would be short the Parachute Drop ride which is a replica of Garnerin's basket drop.
Having four sons, I have seen more parachutes and been the victim of more airborne pranks than I can count.
My two older sons loved those little plastic army guys that come with a parachute. You could find the “air sailors” as my two older boys called them, in cereal boxes, birthday goody bags, and bubble gum machines at the supermarket.
When the two older boys were toddlers we lived aboard a sailboat down in Goodland, Fla. And we were worse than dirt poor, we were water poor.
One Christmas when we lived on the boat we had zero money and all I could afford was toys from the machine at the supermarket.
I cried and beat myself up over the worrying that I had failed them.
They opened all the handmade gifts and played happily enough until they began to unwrap the tiny packets containing the parachute men and began to whoop with total joy.
The little men who could float and catch the air currents in their little “sails” turned out to be their favorite toys for years to come, not that they lasted more than a few flights before needing repairs.
When we moved from the boat to land and an old log cabin in Medford, N.J. a few years later my sons’ greatest joy in life was launching the darn army “air sailors” off the balcony down into the living room to see who could land one in my morning coffee.
You never know where one little leap will take you. Those parachute men launched my sons’ fascination with science.
A few months ago my eldest son Zoltan, 19, informed me he intends to do a parachute jump as soon as it’s affordable.
While it scares me to pieces, I’m excited and amazed that one small toy derived from one great experiment by Garnerin's could give my kids’ imaginations so much air time.