Our life stage determines how we measure time. As children time moves almost too slowly to measure. From one Christmas to the next is an eternity. When we become adults with responsibilities at work and to family, the days are so full they seem to happen in chunks. Years peel off in one great bunch and we wonder where the time has gone. Yet, for the elderly each passing day is examined with rumination. Time has slowed once more.
I remember as a child answering the phone to hear our neighbor Maude saying the same words she did each time she called, “Put your mother on.” On this day, my mother happened to be on a ladder attempting to get a coat of paint on the kitchen wall before beginning dinner. She asked for me to take a message, but for Maude the situation was urgent.
It turned out Maude had been reminiscing about a bowl that she had used on her dinner table years before. She simply had to know at that very moment if she still owned that bowl. Being physically unable to access her cupboards, she had called for my mother to come next door and check for her. To my mother in the midst of raising a family, the dish could wait. To Maude to wait was to risk she might not know in time. In her head Mom reached a compromise; I got to do the checking and Mom returned to her ladder exasperated.
Maude has been gone for many years now, the things in her cabinets dispersed among her family and friends long ago. The kitchen Mom was covering in a cheery orange glow that day no longer exists. Both houses remain clear in my memory as do the women who lived in them. I can’t tell you what hour, day or year the phone rang and I heard Maude on the other line; but I can picture it vividly.In the end, I believe time passes too quickly to truly measure in a way that holds real meaning. I have moments collected in my mind still fresh as when they were happening, moments of joy, others of horror or sadness, but all moments that make up my life. The days and years don’t matter nearly so much as the moments. It is in the moments that we really live.
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