The folly of youth is best demonstrated in all the instances when wise and well-meaning adults counseled me to “enjoy life, it goes so fast!”
I, with the boundless wisdom of a teenage know-it-all, responded to this insight with a well-practiced eye roll and scoffing disdain. For this reason alone, I now understand why, as a rule, people think teenagers are pathologically dim.
Slow. To a child, time doesn’t fly so much as creep. Plod maybe. To a teen, each year could easily be an eternity.
We give no thought to cherishing the moments we are wishing away at breakneck speed. We suffer the delusion that nothing will ever really change. That who we are at that instant we always will be.
Then, sometime around the 18th year, the fast forward button is pushed and we awaken, decades later, blinking and wondering what the heck happened.
As a child, you can never imagine being a grown-up. As a grown-up, you seem to spend an inordinate amount of time remembering being a child.
I want a do-over. The lure of time travel in both daydreams and popular fiction is obvious. Few of us ever really outgrow the desire for a “do-over.” We can only settle for revisiting old photos, old friends and old haunts in an attempt to capture those memories and moments again.
For most, there is ample photographic evidence of who we were, what we looked like and where we lived “back then.” There are albums full of photos of birthdays, holidays, and special events.
Yet what I remember – or hope to – is the scarred wood floor in the hall outside my bedroom, the spot at the top of the steps that was somehow neither “up” nor “down” and thus just perfect for sitting in between. The slightly heaved-up sidewalk under the old oak tree out front that made me feel daredevil cool when I jumped it with my wagon (Evel Knievel, eat your heart out).
None of these things could or would be documented in photographs; they exist only in memory.
Time travel. It is all so real to me still that it seems somehow impossible that I can’t go back. It’s somehow unfathomable that those days, those moments, those people, no longer exist.
I want to believe that in some alternate universe, all the people and places I love are still there. That the very air, conversations, people, places and yes, dust motes, have never really changed. They have gone into suspended animation or, perhaps, are living on in an endless loop so that I can drop in from time to time and see them again.
I want to see my young mother pushing me in a rickety stroller down to the corner store. My 8-year-old self hanging off a pasture gate. My 14-year-old self in all my eye-rolling glory.
My parents. My grandparents. Old friends.
It has been suggested that if I look honest (and pitiful) enough, some kind-hearted resident of my childhood home might just let me in. However, a nickel tour of whether or not they’ve remodeled the old kitchen, or finally refinished the floors, is hardly what I’m looking for.
What I’m looking for is a chance to roam my old home and old haunts in or about 1968. 1978. 1988. Call me an overly practical pessimist, but I’m fairly certain all the knocking in the world won’t open those doors again.
Record. We are spoiled in this age of digital imagery when even our telephones can be pressed into service to record life. We are, for the most part, vigilant in recording birthdays, holidays, home runs, and special events.
But I wonder if anyone remembers to record the everyday? The nooks and crannies and people and places that make up their corner of the world in this space, place, and time.
Did you remember to take real notice of the time spent sitting on the front porch? The kindly old neighbor who waved each morning as you walked the dog? The childhood spent lying on your back staring at the bedroom ceiling as you planned your “escape” from this place (the same place you would likely look back on with fondness someday).
Most of all, did you remember to stand back and really breathe it all in? Did you really feel, and absorb, your moments and memories? Did you really experience the time spent dragging your toes through the dirt and wondering if – and when – anything exciting will ever happen to you?
If you are lucky, something – and everything – does, and you really will long for the days when time stood still and nothing much happened at all. Then you learn that time travel is real.
Time travels all right. It flies very, very fast.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt holds tight to her big hair from 1989 if nothing else. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or http://kymberlyfosterseabolt.com
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