I have a pill container that holds a week’s worth of medicine. When it comes time to refill it, I’m always shocked that another week has passed. Since the start of the pandemic two years ago, I have lost all sense of time. In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot measured out his life with coffee spoons. Apparently, mine is measured out with pills.
I am living in a time warp, totally unmoored from any sense of day or even month.
I didn’t always have this strange relationship with time. As a young child, there was no sense of it that I can recall other than meal times and bed time. Once I started school, however, there was that large analogue clock that dominated the classroom. Sometimes, its hand seemed to stand still, as the school day or class I was attending felt like it would never end. The school year calendar governed my life. Days off and vacations changed the routine, and summer vacation made time disappear once again.
Once I became a stay-at-home parent, time took on a new quality. There is truth to the adage “the days are long but the years are short.” I couldn’t account for my time when my children were young. It was impossible to answer my husband’s question, “What did you do today?” In retrospect, I was definitely living in the mode of Jim Croce’s song to his son, Time in a Bottle, but without the regret Croce experienced about not spending enough time with his child. Croce wrote the song in 1970, when his wife was pregnant with their child, A.J. Tragically, Croce died in a plane crash at age 30, when his son was two, making his song especially poignant.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day ’til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure, and then
Again, I would spend them with you
Even though my days felt like they lasted forever, having my first child, a son A.J.’s age, followed by two younger daughters, made these years both interminable and precious. In hindsight, the ten-year break I took from working to raise my children was a treasure that most parents today can’t afford. Even when I returned to work, initially it was part time as a preschool teacher. As my nest emptied (and it’s true these years seemed to fly by), time was tied the school calendar once again. As an educator and as a student working toward a Masters Degree in early childhood education, my days were compartmentalized by tasks to do, books to read, and papers to write. Once I became director of Cherry Preschool, a new, independent early childhood program, it felt like time passed so quickly that there were literally not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needed to be done.
And then I retired and faced a new relationship with time. Like Dr. Seuss, I wondered, “How did it get so late so soon?” I needed to find a way to be productive and use the time that I now had in abundance to do something meaningful. I needed to write. My first task was to write the history of the founding of Cherry Preschool. Then, I learned to blog, first for Chicago Now and then for Alternet and Huffington Post. In those early days, I was writing about issues related education with an emphasis on early education and children with disabilities. As I approached my 70th birthday, I felt compelled to try writing a book. My time was structured around these tasks and the days passed quickly. Once I published Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, I continued to write regularly. My time felt purposeful as I branched into Medium and Midcentury Modern. As blogging opportunities changed (Huffington Post changed its format, my editor left Alternet, and Midcentury Modern ceased publishing), other avenues opened. I wandered further from educational issues and closer to issues related to aging and memories. And then, John Zussman found me and I started writing for Retrospect.
All of this structure disappeared with the pandemic. Not going anywhere and spending much of my time at home ironically mades it more difficult to write. Time as I had known it ceased to exist. I compiled a series of memoir pieces, including photos, into a book format for my kids and grandkids. I delved into the past creating memoir pieces for my monthly writing group and became more involved as a co-administrator for Retrospect, thinking back and sharing forward. But I am living in a time warp, totally unmoored from any sense of day or even month. I check my phone each morning to orient myself and consult my calendar to be sure I don’t have an appointment that breaks up my day. The things that anchor my time these days are meetings and zooms with friends and sharing books and movies with my husband.
Marking time. Waiting for life to return to normal, whatever form that may take. Reminding myself that, as Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.