Time Present and Time Past

If all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable.  TS Eliot “Burnt Norton”


I used to have a clock in my classroom that drove many of my students crazy.  Framed in silver with a background of black, it was (and still is, for it now hangs in my master bathroom) twenty-four inches in diameter with only thin silver bars marking the places where numbers should have been.   The lack of numbers isn’t what drove some of those teens to undeniable distraction, though; it was the lack of a second-hand.  On the days when forced by some circumstance beyond our control to wait for something (generally mandatory state testing), they were unable to literally watch the minutes sweep by, leaving the wait between each tick interminable.


 Thursday, May 31

Clothes shopping, pumice stoning, hair cutting and coloring.  I’d done it.  I’d made it.  I’d survived the search for the bathing suit.  I’d survived the final buys for a dress, sweats, and minor costume jewelry.  Along the way, my confidence waxed (this is the perfect hair color and the cutest haircut) and waned (Where could I get some of the confidence my stylist had to jump in with both feet and start her own salon? and How on earth am I supposed to recreate the gorgeous styling she’s done on my hair?). We’d all made it through Jake’s National Honor Society induction and his final awards day ceremony.   My last day of volunteering for the year was here and just as suddenly as it had arrived, it was over; our early dinner of bacon and eggs had ended, and I found myself dropping a suitcase into the trunk of a car and heading off to Columbia.

The trip to Columbia was more than just a way-stop on the road to Austin.  It was a drive into the past that served as a reminder that there was no longer a present waiting for me there.  Since my parents’ move from Columbia to the Charleston area three years prior, all roots had been pulled up, extirpated, removed completely.  I passed exits that led to places I didn’t belong anymore, places I no longer recognized.  Had I really been gone for almost eighteen years?   Everything was familiar, yet the progression of time had left marked differences on the landscape of my childhood.

And then I was there—my best, dearest, longest-lasting friend’s home, and inside were her kids and her sister’s kids— clearly living firmly in the present, but somehow seeming to me to be shadows of our own past.  And if that wasn’t enough, there was Cheryl’s mom.  Standing there in that house at the age of thirty-six years old, yet suddenly feeling as if I were sixteen again.  The minutes tripped by into hours, and suddenly Cheryl was home, the kids were in bed, and I was once again living this dual existence where everything was as it once was, but also as it now is.  All those years ago, all those experiences between yesterday and today were hanging in the air.  Nothing had changed, but everything had.

It’s enough to make a mind break if too much time is spent thinking about it.  So I didn’t think about it; I lived it.  Combining suitcases, choosing dresses, looking for jewelry, joking, and laughing; it was comfortable and familiar, and greatly missed.

Then time snapped again, and I found myself trying to sleep on the pulled out sofa bed.  Distracted, listening to the storm that rolled in at two in the morning, knowing that I’d be exhausted the following day, but somehow completely unable to rest.  It was as if I were to sleep, everything would disappear, like I was living in some sort of reversed dream world.  If I fell asleep the reality of it all would end.

I think I got maybe three hours sleep.

Then it was morning, we were eating breakfast, piling into the van, all driving to Charlotte.  And then we were there, and things were beginning to feel real.  Really, really, real.

And the clock continued to tick.


The above is part of my account of the fairy-tale that I was lucky enough to have my friend share with me earlier this month.  If you read and have no idea what the heck I’m talking about and have the desire to find out, you can start at the beginning with the first three posts:

Tuna Cavatappi Be Damned (6/6/12)

Unintentionally Apt (6/7/12)

The Demon Known as Self-Doubt (6/8/12)

2 responses to “Time Present and Time Past

  1. Sounds like when I sat next to Brian at work. Around 2pm I would start throwing candy over the cubby to keep myself awake. I know he misses me.

    • I heard all about the candy. Tell you what– when he comes home today, I’ll pelt him with Jolly Ranchers for you.

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