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23 Apr

The Time-Traveller’s Life

Travelling can be a little bit like – bear with me here – popping yourself into a sort of time-machine wherein the space-time continuum is temporarily suspended: you get into a big metal flying contraption and find yourself some hours later in a different time and place where you fritter away the hours in a life that is not really your own, not your own real life, before getting back into the flying contraption and returning to the place – and, it seems, the very same time – that you left some measureless time ago. WonderBaby’s hair is a little bit longer and she’s little bit taller and her face is a bit battered from the exuberancies of vacation play, but you don’t notice these things because time stood still while the two of you were away and nothing seemed to change, nothing at all.

The husband remarks upon the injured face and the increased height and the fact that WonderBaby has more words and a clearer voice, and you marvel at how these things seemed to have happened without your noticing, no doubt because they occured under a different sky. And you marvel at how these things could happen, these changes occur, this time pass, while everything at home stayed the same: same husband, same cats, same house. All the same, all so loved in their constancy, in what seems – in this moment, only this moment – their immutability.

And it seems to you, suddenly, that you have two lives: one, here, in the place where you chart and map and navigate the journey that is your adulthood, and where you have set the course for the journey of your family, your own family, your spouse and your child and your collective future. And another life, in another place, in other places, the places of your childhood and your youth, where an older journey continues to unfold, slowly, glacially, in intervals, in the interstices of the present. A life that is not quite a past, because it persists and because when you visit it you do so as the grown woman that you are, but also not a future, because it does not fully carry forward. It is a place governed by sidereal time, where everything is measured against the stars, fixed and secure in an unchanging sky. It is slower there. There, you bask in the warmth of nostalgia, frolic in breezy good feeling, dip your toes in the brisk cool of childish peeves and petty worries, shake yourself off and lay down again in the sun, curling your toes into the hot sand of here and now and forgetting. You forget that time is passing, that time has passed. There, you are far from the shade of diligent self-reflection, far from the wind, the gusts, of forward-momentum and directedness.

There, you are not given to foolishly sentimental reflections on time and the universe, because you are outside time, and so time doesn’t matter, and, also, the sand gets in your keyboard, if only figuratively, and slows the babble. The foolishly sentimental reflections come later, when you’re home, when you’ve gotten off of the plane and returned to your home, your real home, the place with all of the laundry and the sippy cups, and realized that you and WonderBaby somehow slipped outside time, for a time, but now you’re back and time is flying by faster than ever, and that you’d do anything, anything, to slow it down again.

Why does the past creep so slowly behind us, and why does the now race so swiftly ahead of us, and why is it so hard, sometimes, to catch our breath?


We had a lovely time, outside time, catching our breath (when we weren’t visiting aquariums with sweet friends or bumping into admired writers at airports or bonking our faces on sidewalks), but we missed the now and its much beloved inhabitants. We missed you. We’ll be coming ’round to see you. Soonest.

(Why am I always compelled to include these assertions of affection? These implied apologies of social obligations ill-met? They’re sincere, but complicated – what is it about the blogosphere that demands we make clear our intimacies, however virtual, and remain accountable to those intimacies?)

(Possibly, because you wouldn’t otherwise tolerate me babbling about time-travel. Only among friends, these thoughts, no?)


FYI, we took a moment outside of time to reflect upon the space-age innovation that is the Overnite diaper. It is very possible that the slowness of the passage of time on our journey was entirely due to the efficiency of our diaper changes. Because, as you know, the space-time continuum is vulnerable to the toilet habits of very small children and the adrenaline levels of their harried mothers.