Thursday, September 11, 2008

how time speeds its way away

I spent an hour looking through old family photos the other day. What I remember is Nana at 65 -- my dad's age. She is now 93. None of those facts seems possible. Nor the fact that I can remember my mom, just slightly older than I am now, holding her "women's group" in the living room, drinking wine and talking about life, careers, young motherhood. That I remember my dad in his 30's, wearing his "tummy tickler" t-shirt taking me for a bike ride in the yellow bike seat behind him. That I remember his coming home from rec football games down on the Mall and icing his knees on the green rug in his room. Max plays football down on the Mall now; we have all shifted and become the next generation.

Time is racing with astounding speed. The other day Ben and I were standing at the table; Silas was kneeling on a chair eating next to us; Eden lay across Ben's arm. We looked up and saw ourselves in the mirror and for a second it was stunning: this is us, this family -- we in our 30's standing in our own dining room, with two children who are our children and will be for the rest of our lives. Somehow we moved from high school to this, and the world aged along with us.

As quickly as life is whirling by, the years are passing slowly. All of the life-turning events seem to stretch a year out like taffy, sticking us in each moment for an extra pause. Claire Ewing was born only a year and some days ago, but when I imagine standing in the hospital room watching Annemarie transform into strength, or driving through Georgetown to pick up sandwiches just after, or standing in the park behind my parents' house looking for the perfect tiny acorn to mark her life, those events feel like they were years ago.

It's a strange reality -- life so fast and slow. And this is a stage where there is much to remember -- so much that I sometimes feel achy knowing there is no way to hold on to it all. What sounds Silas made at 5 months, his perfect baby chub, the sweet inflections when he asked me to hold his hand, his caution before he could climb a ladder at the park, how he ran at 1 1/2 -- much of these details are gone, replaced by the immediacy of who he is this second, a bright-haired 2 1/2 year old boy. And Eden, whoever she will become, is already nothing of a newborn, that stage gone.

I wish I were not quite so conscious of how fleeting this all is because in all the full, laughing joy of raising two tiny people, I feel a whisper of sadness that each stage is nearly gone already and that there is no way to preserve it in perfect accuracy, despite the photographs, video, or jotting down thoughts.

But maybe we would break if we held it all.

How deeply aware of time are the poets--
the quickness of its passing,
the fragility of the now,
the terror of its going.
-Nils Peterson

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