Monday, June 22, 2009


A while back I was chatting with my parents in my kitchen about a family event. We were trying to remember when it took place. Finally, I said, "I think it wasn't that long ago. Maybe two years." My parents nodded. Lilly, who had been playing with her plastic horses and eavesdropping looked up in horror.

"Not too long ago? Two years!?"

"Well, that does seem like a long time when you're only 11 but when you're older it seems like a short time, like maybe a few months feels to you," I tried to explain. "Isn't that how it is for you, Grandpa?"

"No," my father replied, "Two years is more like a long afternoon for me."

Indeed. If we are to believe Einstein (and why wouldn't we?) time is relative. And so Lilly's two years represent nearly 20% of her life and a mere 2.5% of my father's life.

As anyone over the age of 12 knows, time accelerates as you get older until one day you are 49 and you say things like, "I saw him not so long ago at the 20th class reunion," and realize that was more than a decade ago.

My father called me on my birthday this year and said, "Well, this is a big one for you!"

"No," I reminded him, "I'm 49, next year will be the big one."

"Right, I know. But that's just around the corner."


These time/age games can be fun and alarming to play. Let's look at the year 1994. You remember that year pretty clearly, right? It was 15 years ago but that's not so long--True Lies was at the movies and Bill Clinton was our president and Sheryl Crow sang, "All I wanna do". Hardly ancient history, right? Compare that to what was going on 15 years before the year you were born. Go ahead, I'll wait while you do the math. Wait, how can that be? I was born in 1960 so fifteen years before that --World War II was ending. WHAT? Wasn't World War II like in the 1800's or something?

Nothing makes you feel that time flying past you faster than having kids. In a blink they are babies, toddlers, preschoolers. Now it's even faster; junior high, homecoming, learning to drive. I feel like the ride that is parenthood has sped up from a jaunty merry-go-round to a zero-gravity space ship in which your cheeks fly back as the rocket takes off.

If only I had some meaningful interpretation of today's ramblings but I really have not much more to offer than the obvious. Life is short. It gets shorter every second.

So enjoy this summer day and enjoy Joni Mitchell as she sings the best song ever about time passing.


  1. third to last paragraph sums it up meaningfully and beautifully.
    Actually, I love the whole piece.

    Anonymous MM in Holly

  2. I recently realized that WWI wasn't as long ago when I was born as WWII is now. I mean come on, WWI, that's ANCIENT history...

  3. Thank you my anonymous MM in Holly! Laurent, so glad to know I'm not the only one playing those time games. World War I! If my grandmother imagined what happened 94 years (her age) before her birth she'd be at 1821!

  4. God, Judy, this is such a perfect post for me right now. FIRST, I too just turned 49 (Sunday), and my sister's comments were all about how they won't be alone in their 50's next year. Blech. Then, my son doesn't remember our friend from Chicago who visited only about 2 years ago--doesn't remember the awesome time we had with him! Unbelieveable. Finally, The Circle Game has been a major favorite of mine for the past few years, since I rediscovered it on a cool collection called Washington Square Memories. The version I know (from there) is from Tom Rush, another great version. It can bring me to tears, but I'm amazed anyone without kids can even begin to "get it." Anyway, thanks for a great blog entry, and a belated happy birthday to you (I'm guessing it was sometime in June?)

  5. There are times when we would speed life up, though, if we were able. Most of those are waiting times. Lab results. Healing. The days before a vacation or event. The days after a job interview. Travel times when you're eager to arrive. Arrivals at the airport. The last second of the game when your team has pulled ahead. Waiting for your ride. Doing laundry at a laundromat. Waiting on line for rides, restrooms, checkouts during the holidays, etc. Waiting to hear if the birth parents have selected you to receive the child. Waiting for the real estate agent to tell you the offer was accepted. Waiting for the rescue squad. Waiting for the package to arrive. Waiting for pay day. Waiting for the storm to pass.
    Some of these times are the ones we can relate to friends in great detail afterward. Intense minutes, hours, and days. Although measured in the same twenty-four hour increments, they seemed so much longer at the time.
    your cousin Elaine in Iowa