The country music singer, Sara Evans, sings it perfectly, “you can’t fence time…”
Time slips through our fingers like sand doesn’t it? Sometimes we don’t realize until the children’s growth marks on the door jam get so much higher and we see the space within those inches as months of time – almost empty inside the endcaps made by the pencil. Blurry bowls of cereal and teeth brushing, hundreds of forehead kisses, fevers and band-aids, sassy mouths, stubborn fits, tiny hugs and past-due library books squished between two hash marks.
When we sold the house we brought our children home from the hospital to it was hard. The door jam with the kids’ recorded growth was abandoned and left to be painted over by the new inhabitants. I made this ruler, so that we could take the measurements with us.
Fortunately, the memories came with us too, memories we can only hope get brought forth in reflection and conversation triggered by something insignificant, or perhaps while flipping through photographs.
The passage of time is less evident until you have a child and even then it doesn’t seem to clip along quickly until that child is old enough to go to school. When my oldest went to kindergarten, even the evidence of my aging in the mirror with the reflection of new lines and creases and the distinct impact of gravity, was not as eye-opening as the legs and arms that had grown before me.
You all know what I mean.
We have these toddling chunky bodies we hoist up into the air and wrap around our hips. Then, one day the chunky thighs and wrists have dissipated and lean legs carry our babies in large strides across the yard after soccer balls and butterflies. It takes photographs years apart to realize the blatant difference between ‘then’ and ‘now,’ which in reality is encapsulated in millions of tiny recorded moments within our memories.
You can’t stop it.
The latest bullet on my resume from new experiences seemed less about recording what happened before and more about adding blocks to a foundation, making room for what would happen next – the next bullet. Birthdays were a subtle reminder of passing time, but I’ve never remembered my age anyway.
My almost 8 year-old’s head is nearly at the top of the shoulder of my five-foot ten inch frame. It causes me to pause, reflect and realize all of those inches whished up and away. The time they measured is behind me.
Tic marks on the door jam.
If you think deeply about it, it does morph to be like the resume bullet, stabilizing and proving itself for the next bullet with every tooth the tooth fairy whisks away. One day there are no more scraped knees and you realize you haven’t bought band aids in a long time. But, every day builds upon the next reflected in happy hearts, developing brains and strong bodies.
Someone once said and subsequently many have repeated (now including me) that when you have children the days are long, but the years are short. My goodness is that ever true!
It applies to pets and parents too.
A few days ago I was FaceBook messaging with the woman who we gave our dog, Zeppelin, to. He had growled and showed his teeth to our then two-year old while I was pregnant with the twins and we knew we had to find a new home for him.
I bet he wishes he would have growled sooner because man, did he get a good set of new parents. That was over six years ago. Gone in the blink of an eye. His new owner messaged over a picture of him and his ears looked even bigger…kind of like how an old man’s ears seem to grow larger and larger. And, he is gray.
Zeppelin is now an old man – he will be 13 in July.
His litter mate, Bella (who we still have), still looks youthful on the outside, but inside her mind is failing, and her eyes and ears no longer work.
We blinked and here we are.
Absence of time with Zeppelin has made the passage of those six years stark and obvious. It’s kind of like going to your 20-year high school reunion and seeing friends who haven’t used Botox or the latest dermatological product promising to reduce fine lines. They are visual proof of time.
When I was pregnant with our twins I was restricted from traveling far and went on bed rest at 26 weeks. By the time I delivered them and was then able and confident enough to travel, more than eight months had passed since I had seen my father. My mom had been able to come and visit.
When I spoke to my father on the phone, I noticed his voice change. But when I saw him, the differences were obvious. He seemed smaller, his hair was more gray and he was quieter. His memory also lost a little bit of me – something he was able to camouflage in our cordial, short phone conversations.
A couple of years before that my dad had planted the potatoes upside down in the garden. I had pointed it out and he had responded gracefully admitting his error. He was kind of perplexed. It foretold what was coming. I overlooked it, but you don’t plant potatoes for 70 years and then one day accidentally put them in upside down.
In that year, I had no record of the aging that subtly happened every day. The result at the end of the year was blunt. It is similar to our children growing before our eyes, but we cannot see it because we are within those long days, looking back on the short years wondering where the time has gone.
My father is now 84 and full of memories and stories that are now held hostage, including memories of me.
Yikes. I don’t mean to depress you, but the passage of time has been weighing heavily upon me lately.
This fall, I will have two kindergarteners and a third grader. No babies at home. One day I will pick them up into my arms and I will put them back down and never pick them up again. I rarely pick up my oldest and I don’t remember the last time I did. I think to myself – am I never going to pick him up again? When was the last time I sat his limber legs down onto the floor.
A significant moment lost in the shuffle of insignificant moments.
Time is like that. It is inevitable it will pass. It might leave you some sadness, but it will also fill your heart with the joy of memories and the evidence of those memories.
Sometimes, it is hard to pause in the frustrating moments of motherhood and remember the current moment of frustration will be unrecorded and forgotten, slipping below the horizon with the setting sun. Inevitably, it will be replaced with the present activity, which is zipping by to join the memories. You can’t hold it still. Time moves you forward. It does not hold you back.
Moments to memories.
Time is a fountain of many things. Time heals conflict most of the time. Time heals hearts. It stretches everything out, so that it isn’t stacked on top of you at one time resulting in your inability to manage it all. Time is unforgiving. Time is forgiving. Time is good like that.
We are woven together like cloth, patterns predetermined in a bolt of fabric. Patterns cut. Patterns changed. We cannot change time, but time can change us – yet we can change how time changes us.
Do we become forgiving? Do we become bitter? Will we wake with joy at sunrise after a particularly troubled sunset? How will our decisions affect recorded time? What mark will we leave in the printed pattern?
We are trying to make some sort of an impact and it may not be the formula for world peace, but it might be a tiny moment that is a sand grain in the formula for world peace. That is because – for a moment we have time in the palm of our hand.
All of the talk of time made my husband think of the relativity component of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, although it isn’t perfectly in-line with the turning of the hands of the clock.
In 1915, Einstein determined that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of observers. The theory encompasses many more things than that, including (but not limited to) gravitational lensing, time dilation and it is what was actually able to prove that space and time are part of one continuum called space-time: Events that occur at the same time for one observer could occur at different times for another.
It is one of the most-famous scientific theories of the twentieth century.
As far as relativity is concerned, the laws of physics are the same for anyone standing still watching, but when the speed of an object or its experience with time is measured, it is always in relation to something else. However, the speed is always the same no matter who measures it or how fast the person measuring it is going.
A good modern-day example, is when you fly somewhere in an airplane. When you are flying, it does not seem like you are going 550 miles per hour. You feel as if you are standing still relative to the plane. Yet, from an observer on the ground, you are moving at 550 miles per hour.
It isn’t until you land that you can fully conceptualize the speed at which you traveled and the distance over which you came.
Just like us, neck deep in the parenting ups and downs of our days, we don’t feel time whipping by until we have had a moment to stop and reflect upon the pace at which we have moved and the distance the pencil marks on the door jam have traversed.
Breathe deeply and journey on! Time won’t wait!
the mamabrain at mamabrains