Where did the time go?

Tranquil-Field-Sierra-Nevada-Foothills-CaliforniaForty years ago I was twelve years old. It was 1969 and I was a couple of months from becoming a teen-ager. My dad’s CPA practice was doing well. We lived in a four-bedroom house in a neighborhood across the street from an old olive orchard full of magpies, the occasional pheasant, and California quail. My sister and I had a horse, a big buckskin named Barney, and we spent the summers outdoors in the sun, riding bareback across rolling hills furred with knee-high yellow grass and dotted with massive old oak trees. I picked unripened figs and broke them open to taste the sweetness inside, and once picked a persimmon off a tree in an abandoned field and bit into it. It turned my mouth numb; it was another 25 years before I had enough courage to bite into a persimmon again.

Twelve-going-on-thirteen. Telephones still had rotary dials and you couldn’t carry them around. While there were computers, they were the size of entire houses and made up of rank upon rank of floor-to-ceiling vaccuum tubes — not the sort of thing you’d set up in your den. I played tetherball with my Boston terrier Hector in the back yard, and when we were both tired out, we’d lay under the weeping willow tree. Hector was a good tetherball player.

Forty years ago this month Woodstock happened. My cousin was a hippy — I thought she was wonderful and I admired her for being the “black sheep” of the family. We were still in the midst of the Cold War. The Russian Communists were the “enemy,” and the Chinese Communists were a mystery, frightening, unknown. The Berlin Wall stood, dividing East Germany from West Germany, democracy from Communism. In Northern Ireland the Troubles were well underway.

It feels like those forty years passed like a breath, like a hawk swooping out of nowhere, an arrow across a field that disappears into a copse of trees. Like most people my age, I wonder with a certain sense of bewildered awe where the time went. The twelve-year-old I was in 1969 still looks out of my 2009 eyes even though I can remember, very well, the birth of my own child. I remember when she was twelve. Yesterday, that was. And I remember the first thing I said when the nurse laid her on my chest, all wrapped up, her small face red and her fingers impossibly tiny. I said, “she looks like an elf!”

If I’m very lucky, I’ll live another 40 years from today. Maybe even longer. I wonder what the world will be like by then. Will I look back, when I’m ninety-two and say, wistfully, “where did the time go?”


3 Responses to “Where did the time go?”

  1. Time is a mystery person, someone appearing familiar yet as foreign as the other side of the world. Forty years ago exists “now” in your memory and consciousness, yet it is as gone as the life of a butterfly.

    All that you and I remember does not exist yet it is real within our tissue and essence but we can never again touch it. That boy, that girl of yesterday, those friends, those loves … that city and place are all gone yet they exist in today’s time frame as if the past never happened.

    1967 was part of a progression … a time mark between the past and today. Some remember, most consider it no different that 1867 or 1467 … Age has a way of saying, “I have much to offer and to use as a measurement, most of which resides within my soul.”

    Someone born in in 1990 then says, “OK, tell me about what it was like, back then, what did you wear, did you have electricity.”

  2. Funny, as I listened to the story about the couple from the album cover (whom are now and still married), I remembered the 25th anniversary in 1994. And then realized that I was out of high school, and, foolishly, considering traveling on the road across the country for the 25th anniversary concert.

    And then, sitting in my apartment, I realized that was 15 years ago, though I can still remember my (then) girlfriend’s reaction as we talked about driving across the U.S. How have I been out of high school for 15+ years?

    And is it really possible that in 1994, there were no cell phones or internet….?

  3. My mum had her 80th birthday party a couple of weeks ago. One of the remarkable things about it was meeting Fred again, the guy who used to run the local judo club I went to when I was twelve. A small, powerfully built man with a big laugh and bigger hands, Fred ran the club like a friendly troll, hurling us around so our heels would make holes in the ceiling tiles, improvising mad games, and driving us about the country to competitions and gradings in a van held together with straps and wild stories. In his workaday life he tried to make money as best he could, fitting kitchens, delivering meat, repairing cars or working on the land – anything that’d get him through. I lost touch with him when I left home, and the years passed. When I saw him again at Mum’s party, it was the first time in 34 years! Apart from being completely grey haired, he was still the same shape – perhaps a little more squared off – same laugh, same dark eyes. But this time, instead of the old combat jacket I remembered, he had on a crisp white shirt, city red braces and shiny black shoes.
    ‘That’s my Bentley outside,’ he said. ‘I had a bit of luck with letting property.’

    As you can tell from that, I’m pretty poor at keeping in touch. But anyway – great post. I’ll try to keep up a little better…

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