We humans 'know' past and future and, as far as scientists can tell, this ability is not shared by other animals. It’s interesting to think that animals can’t conjure up memories or envision something in the future. Time is a tricky business. We all seem to take it for granted that it does exist but why do we believe in something that we can’t see, taste, smell or hold? Why does it only travel in one direction, from past to present to future and not the other way around? If this thing called time is so elusive, does that mean that it’s real or a figment of our imagination?
Time may be elusive but, for the past few years, it’s become painfully obvious that it’s not a figment of my mind nor is it travelling backwards. I know this because of the deepening furrows on my forehead, the crow’s feet, the laugh lines and the spreading and sagging and creaking. I not only know what a wattle is but I have enough to share. But you know what? I’ve earned all these battle scars and I wear them proudly. Also, I’m not so keen on needles or scalpels.
Besides the inevitable ageing process, I’ve discovered another interesting thing about the passage of time. As I get older I’ve begun to identify with my grandparents’ need to share their stories from the past, memories of their golden sun-dappled days of youth. I find myself doing the same thing lately, telling my kids all these old stories that I unearthed from my own childhood, digging them up like an eager archaeologist, blowing off the dust and entrusting them to my children as if they were the treasures in King Tut’s tomb.
Partly, I’m reminiscing because my long-term memory is becoming better than my short-term memory. But there’s another part of me that gets a thrill out of remembering the past. Sometimes, as a parent, as a spouse, as a tax-paying, bill-paying member of ‘responsible society’, it’s fun to remember that I have a history, that once upon a time I was young and carefree and devil-may-have-cared but I didn’t. I tell my kids about some of the crazy hijinks from bygone days, editing out the truly disreputable parts and skipping the story about how I jumped off a moving train that was headed to Budapest when I needed to get back to my school in Germany for final exams. And that is a true story. [Aside: Just for the record, even if you can still see the platform, once the train is moving it’s going faster than you think and the majority of train station platforms are not made out of that spongey stuff they use in playgrounds. Just saying. ]
But mostly, I reminisce about the good times and the funny times and the times when I felt sad or confused or scared but came through it okay. I share my stories with my kids as a way to connect with them and I like to think it helps them make sense of the world or maybe just lets them see that I’m a person too and not just their mother. They like to hear about the music I listened to and the TV shows I watched and the trouble my sister and I got into. They ask a lot of questions about what it was like to grow up in the cave ages, before the Internet and Facebook and Skype and Twitter and Nintendo. So I tell them that I read a lot of books, the kind with real paper on the inside and I listened to record albums. And they laugh. And it’s a little bonding exercise, free and fun for the whole family. But, despite all the reaching into the past for jolly tales of yore, time keeps moving forward. And there’s nothing that we can do about it. Hopefully, time is on my side but, if it’s not, my kids will remember some good times and funny times and sad times and pass them on to their own children some day. I give them my time today and my memories from yesterday and they’ll have that in the future.
On another note regarding time, I have always been fascinated with the whole concept of time travel. If you were given a chance to travel in time, would you take it? Would you choose to travel to the past or the future? And, upon your return to the present, would you want to remember what you had seen?
I wrote this post for Josie’s Writing Workshop at Sleep is for the Weak. The prompt I chose was Time.
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