"...there never seems to be enough time/To do the things you want to do/Once you find them." Croce, Jim. "Time in a Bottle"
Time is intangible, all-encompassing, allusive, dictating, transient, maddening and never enough. It governs, marks, and gives relevance to our lives. And its significance is often determined by our stage in it. When we are children, time is irrelevant--non-existent. Children reside in a world where life is not dictated by appointments, commitments and the small hand moving much too fast. It is we as parents who tell them to "hurry up, grab your coat, and put on your shoes. Hurry up." We tell them to "slow down, don't eat so fast, you will choke. Slow down." Children live in each moment, rarely rushing towards the next or lamenting the last. A child is often contented in the present; we who live by the sound of the clicking clock create a child’s concept of “hurry up and slow down”.
It is ironic then that children who are mostly oblivious to the passage of time are the keepers of time. They are the ones who make us realize its true existence and its ephemeral nature. Their constant and expedient growth forces us to physically witness time's passage. I have often referred to them as "walking calendars." We rush them to achieve each milestone only to mourn for what was lost. How many of you have held little fingers as tiny feet took unsure steps, clapped at the first wobbly independent walk only to feel sadness and longing for the baby who crawled?
If children are the keepers of time then adults are the catchers. We try to capture moments that we know all too well will soon be lost. We go to parks armed with cameras; we go to plays with video cameras poised, and very few of us don't have a camera phone at the ready. Why? We do this because it is our only control over the uncontrollable and often cruel, swiftly moving moments in time.
My son graduated from preschool last week. My eyes watched my tall five-year old boy proudly hold his diploma but my mind saw my small, downy-headed infant who lay in my arms. My eyes filled with tears as I wondered, "Where does the time go?" It isn't a profound or unique question but it plagues all who have wanted a moment to last much longer than it did. I held my video camera steady and, for a moment, shear panic shot through me when I thought I might have neglected to hit the record button. Why? It is because I was trying to catch time. It was my effort to outsmart nature so that when I am watching my son proudly hold his high school diploma, I won't have to rely just on memories to see my five-year-old boy. In my video, he can in some small way forever remain my little boy.
It's why we writers write, isn't it? We are trying to catch time. We are creating stories with characters who will forever survive on pages read and re-read, granting them immortality and giving us a footprint surer than one made in water. We want to preserve our own moment in history--our stories, our voice, our existence. We know all too well those moments, especially beloved ones are fleeting but our stories stay and, because they do, in a way so do we.
But remember fellow writers in your effort to catch and keep time you must not waste it. Write what you want to write, write how you want to write but most importantly, write. The only stories not capable of capturing time are the ones unwritten. So, write them. Do it now because as the proverbial saying goes, "time waits for no man."
Causes Sherry Parnell Supports
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Heifer International