About time.

Time does not change us. 
It just unfolds us.
-- Max Frisch

I guess that explains a lot about the wrinkles . . . and probably a few other things.

I remember as a kid standing at the head of the vast stretch of summer vacation and thinking it would never end.  Time seemed to move more slowly then, especially in the summer when we were largely left to our own devices to entertain ourselves long day after long day.  Bliss.

Sitting across from an old friend recently
who shared my childhood summers, 
I couldn't help but wonder how we got from there to here.

Sus and Ali share a tete a tete in Sunday School, ca. 1968

I guess Tennessee Williams explained that with this line:

Time is the longest distance 
between two places.

Paris at Midnight, the latest Woody Allen movie (a must see if you love art, literature, Woody, Owen Wilson or Paris) is a gem that explores time and nostalgia and rose-colored glasses and the grass always being greener, even in Paris.  

In it the protagonist is a writer who is working on a book about a character who owns a nostalgia shop. The kind of place that sells Bonanza lunchboxes and Shirley Temple dolls.   The writer also happens to yearn for Paris' golden age of the 1920's (and through time-travel happens to find himself there, along with a wondrous assortment of writers, artists and intellectuals of the time).

Curiously, some of those "golden age" characters he encounters yearn for the Paris of La Belle Epoque, and some of the Belle Epoque crowd yearn for the Renaissance . . . and so it goes.

An annoying know-it-all in the movie posits that nostalgia is nothing but "denial and escapism"  -- a reluctance to deal with the realities of the present day.

Being a true sentimentalist myself (and a person who sometimes watches Bonanza reruns more than twice per week), I had to wonder about my own nostalgic leanings, and why I am bent in that particular direction.

I was talking to Hannah about it -- she is the only one of my children who has a similar sentimental streak.  One of the most exhilarating accomplishments of her recent past (which included college graduation) was scoring a mint condition set of Pyrex mixing bowls.  Just like the ones I have.  Which I love because they were just like the ones my grandmother used.

Strangely anachronistic Pyrex bowls on a messy dorm-room bed

She explained this part of her personality as "a result of being raised as a fly on the wall of an adult life". . . meaning her mother's life, of course.  And it makes sense.

As a young mother, by the time I was left with only Hannah at home, I was itching to get out and get back to my own pursuits.  So much of her childhood was spent toddling around antique stores and listening to the lunchtime chatter of her mother and friends.  And it somehow connected her to a past she has no first-hand knowledge of.

As a child, I was a similar fly -- spending my days hanging around Aunt Lillie's store listening to the town small-talk, or watching Grandma Myrl cook for a hungry farmer or quilt with the church ladies.

Of course, keeping a foot in the past and one in the present becomes increasingly precarious as the chasm yawns with each passing year.  The sound of the screen-porch door at Aunt Lillie's house, the feel of summer nights spent sleeping on the balcony under the stars with Ali, become more blurred around the edges every day.  I guess that's why I cling tightly. Because then life stretched with the vastness of a new summer vacation.  Now I find myself on a moving walkway.

But I have also learned the importance of keeping the past in its place.  And despite having an uneasy relationship with the future, I try to keep my eyes appropriately trained ahead.

As for the present?

I admit I could 
handle it more carefully --
put it on a higher pedestal.

  wasting time = wasting life

Because the only piece we grasp firmly is the tick that sits in our palm this instant.  And we can hardly feel its weight before it is slipping away into memory.

This first lovely day of June makes me want to hold every minute tightly, even as the sun arcs too quickly across the sky and the warm breeze blows the day by.

Really, we're just moments.



Leenie said...

"Time unforlds us." Like you said, no wonder the wrinkles.

Interesting how the unfolding and telescoping is so selective. How the deep pain is suppressed and we and remember the good and the joy with shimmering detail. How that piece of nostalgia can bring a whole experience back like rubbing a magic lamp.

I've heard good things about the movie. I'll put it on my list. And if I see a Bonanza lunch box in the second-hand store I'll buy it for you.

Pam said...

Loved this post Susan! Beautifully expressed. The sound of a sliding glass door that the young ones encounter now, can't be half as evocotive as the sound of those screen doors that permeated our childhood....and didn't those days stretch on forever, just venturing back inside for snacks.

Judy said...

I love the image of one foot in the past and one in the present with a growing chasm between. Sometimes I feel a huge disconnect between what WAS and what IS, and sometimes I have a hard time telling them apart.

I heard another positive review of Paris at Midnight. The reviewer especially liked the Hemingway character. I can't wait to see it!

Allie said...

Boy did this post hit home to me - I have a nostalgic streak a mile wide and a hundred miles deep. I too grew up surrounded by adults who spoke of a time I have no memory of, yet yearn for unceasingly. Good reminder to keep an eye on the present....

susan m hinckley said...

The Hemingway character is one of my favorite characters in a movie EVER! Very funny stuff, if Hemingway can be considered funny...

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