Her Bad Mother

Monday, April 23, 2007

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.

24 Comments:

Blogger nomotherearth said...

"Outside of time" is exactly how I feel when I'm on vacation, but I've never thought of it those exact words. That's what I'm looking for right now - to be outside regular, clockwork, ever-marching time.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

There must be something in the air lately, I've had similar musings, and I've read several posts in that same vein. Time...she's a bitch.

Glad you enjoyed your vacation. Are you feeling better now?

2:46 PM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

you've described perfectly how i feel when i fly home to england. i am in desperate need of writing that post--the "caught between two worlds..two times..to identities.." one. it's all confounded, because we are seriously thinking of moving back, and so the ambivalence over "who AM I in that place???" becomes all the more complicated. It impinges...

Welcome back, dearest.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Leah said...

I had never thought about what you wrote before, but soon as I read it it resonated with me. We go out to the lake every summer four four weeks and it is exactly like that. We call it lake time, I like your expanation better.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Ahhhhhhhh unplugging. So glad it was a good time with your time away. I know what you mean.

As for the accolades? It just seems to be what is done. Why? Maybe we need to be a little flamboyant here, where we are so one-dimensional in a way, just words on page to reflect the complicated real person with real life.

As for me I can't catch my breath because I am running for all I am worth just to keep with with now, a time that somehow began outpacing me when once it moved so slowly it seemed like the Christmas that would never come.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

P.S. I have no home to go back to, no place of youth. We moved too often and my parents do not live anywhere near anyplace I ever lived as a child or young person. I also rarely if ever meet anyone related to my past. So in that, I'm not really too sure about caught between two times in life.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

Welcome home time traveler.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

I 100% agree with you about traveling being something like time travel. The first time I went to India, I was entirely blown away by that feeling. How is it that such an entirely different world can exist from my own? Even more amazing, how is it that I am HERE? Even more amazing, how is it that mere hours ago, whle still wearing these clothes and without ageing more than a day, I climbed into this machine that brought me here.

On the other side of the coin, I also feel this when returning to old places I have long since left. Its almost impossible to beleive that, like with a book you put down or a movie you paused, life did not come to a standstill when I left it there.

4:07 PM  
Blogger slouching mom said...

HBM, this is lovely, as usual.

But this doesn't happen for me, sadly. The place where I grew up doesn't exist anymore. It exists physically, but it provides neither comfort nor respite.

Things changed. It happens.

But it's fun to imagine having the experience you had.

4:54 PM  
Blogger The Mama said...

Glad you had the opportunity and chance to relax, reflect, and to catch that breathe that never really seems to come too easily.

5:13 PM  
Blogger mamatulip said...

Oh, WonderBaby's face in the previous post makes me cringe. Poor thing...

Welcome home. :)

6:16 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Interestingly, the precise places of my childhood and youth are gone - the places that I visit with friends and family are in the same areas (Greater Vancouver, and the semi-arid desert of the Thompson River and the North Okanagan in BC) that I spent my childhood and much of my youth, but are not the same exact locations. Nor are my family members in the same configurations of relationships. What remains constant, though - the spaces created by these loved ones, the space of *being* with these loved ones. The landscape of the past, if not the details of that past.

See? Foolish sentimentality.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Such beautiful thoughts, such clarity. It's true, that time seems to pass differently depending where we are - mentally and of course, geographically.

This is one of those posts I'm going to come back to often.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Beautifully said, HBM. That's how I feel on vacation. And how cool is it that a blogger recognized you in an airport?!?

8:17 PM  
Blogger NotSoSage said...

What a perfect description of that feeling. And I find it so much more real now that I come home, basically unchanged, but even a few days away is reflected in my little one.

Welcome home.

9:37 PM  
Blogger mcewen said...

I don't know why my 'pause' button doesn't work. We seem to be permanently on 'fast forward.'
Best wishes

9:53 PM  
Blogger Mary G said...

I love this! I remember how it felt, when I had those two worlds, and you have written it oh, so well.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

This is exactly how I feel when I'm away from blogging for awhile. Living the life I write about...only without thinking if it's blogworthy.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Beck said...

Beautiful post.
We moved back home when our oldest child was two, which was odd. Very odd. We're used to it now, but for the first while we felt like we'd returned to our own childhoods with a kid in tow.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

This is so achingly beautiful. Thank you for contributing more to this already lovely day.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Tracey said...

It is strange to leave and return... And OW on that poor little face! How does the sidewalk look?

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

catherine you have such a beautiful way of speaking.you always make me smile.and if i could time travel i would certainly do so.wonderbaby is such a sweet little girl.hope her face is healing up well.LAVENDULA

10:43 AM  
Blogger Laural said...

I could relate so much to this.
We go on an annual trip to Vermont (my parents, my sister and her family, and my family).
We've been going annually since I was about 6, stopped for a few years and then resumed when we started having families.
It seems like time does stand still - and the memories are amazing.
It's so necessary to do this - be away, be free, take a break, and introduce your child to it.
(and, you know - eat a lot of Ben & Jerry's ice cream)

11:05 AM  
Blogger Bloor West Mama said...

Welcome Back!!!

I find it always nice to return to my home filled with familiar things, smells and sounds.

But hey, don't get me wrong I love going on vacation as well.

11:16 AM  

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