Letters of Life

About Time

This is an original:

Children live in eternity until they learn to tell time.

Ever notice that about very small children? It took a second one for me to realize this. Back in the day (everything seems back in the day these days, which can’t be a good thing), my whole days (and nights) with small children stretched out, sometimes like the Moroccan dessert, and I worried about my brain. Sometimes, there were moments of wonder of course, like. . . . . . lessee now. . . it’s been a while. . . and, of course, you understand.

Like when a sobbing child can only be comforted in my arms, no one else’s, and you think, well, that’s how little she knows about me. But of course, she knows enough and it’s good enough for her and it is all she needs.

Or how, upon hearing the annoucement that his 11-year-old brother was the first boy in class, the six-year-old responds, “You mean, the rest are girls?”

The anecdotes could fill a notebook, and they should, except for the fact that most of the time, I was probably on the sofa and didn’t have the energy to search for a pencil much less paper, or I was engineering a car through peak-hour traffic or jostling through a supermarket getting last-minute stuff for dinner.

The dire elasticity of days did a number on the plasticity of my brain: Domesticity and Babyland were a double-whammy that caused the number of books I read to do a freefall and flatline at the only natural number known not to be positive.

Back to time. Not fully understanding the concept, these very small children I knew had the capacity to live fully in the moment. You might think we do this as adults — we try, don’t we? — but when you see a child immersed in the bath, in a book, in watching Bob the Builder, you realize we’ve lost half of it when we started to tell time and time told on us and became our master.

Time can never master a child ignorant of it. Isn’t that just — g?

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