I stood in the doorway of my daughter’s classroom the other day, when one of her classmates approached me and gave a tug on my sleeve. “Just so you know,” she said, “there isn’t school on Monday. You might want to turn your alarm off.” And just as I wanted to half-laugh at this adorable gesture, half-sneer condescendingly at it, I thought, Oh yeah. There isn’t school on Monday.
There are all sorts of sayings about the passage of time: It keeps slipping into the future, like water in your hands. The days are long but the years are short. Youth is wasted on the young and hindsight is 20/20; and while some would say I’m still too young to vouch for these truths with any sort of authority, I have come far enough along to determine—time is tricky business.
Back-to-school is like the new year for me. I hibernate through the real new year celebration—I’ve told you about that. I start waking up in the spring. I come back to life in the summer, just in time to be hot and lethargic, so really I’m just emerging into my full attention span by Labor Day weekend. Now I’m ready to get organized, take on some projects, arrange the calendar—but, by gosh if it doesn’t stay in my head like it used to.
As a wife and mother, I manage many calendars. My kids are not only busy, they’re now at an age where they are busy separately. They each get their own color on my calendar system. My husband is always coming and going for work and, generally, I’m keeping that straight—for me and for him. I have work assignments of my own, and I’ve chosen an industry that operates on deadlines, however loose I try to pretend they are. Plus, once in a while, I like to try to be social. There are bills to be paid at certain intervals, appointments that you have to make months in advance, and adulting tasks meant to be performed like every quarter, or something like that. Things are so scheduled, so required, you would think it would build a sturdy framework for time. There’s nothing willy-nilly about it when every activity and to-do is nailed into place.
But the older I get, the more this scaffolding seems to expose time’s cracks. A whole Sunday will pass, and I’m not sure what I have to show for it. Or, in this instance, I really did forget about the school holiday. Never mind that it’s an immovable, annual event. The days are blurring together and the weeks are blurring together too. We skip from one month to the next in a blink of an eye. It’s just a matter of time (really, the play on words here) before I can’t differentiate between the years either….
Then a part of me wonders if that isn’t sort of the goal? Because, isn’t the point of a Sunday to get lost in it? Isn’t a holiday, especially Labor Day, mind you, a day to step back, to forget for a little while what Mondays really are? When the weeks slide together to form a month, I can walk away from that month with a feeling of what it was—we all know September has a certain feeling. When one year runs into the next, I’m living my life, seamlessly through every phase, without worry for milestones or achievements or whatever else I think is supposed to define an existence.
The problem for a girl who likes to color-coordinate her calendar so that nothing is ever forgotten is that most of life happens outside of the line items of a datebook (which, okay, I do actually manage my calendar digitally, but analog references are always prettier on paper). My daughter’s friend pulled on my sleeve with a silly little reminder, and I realized, not only was the holiday coming up, I had taken a vacation in my mind—I wasn’t thinking ahead to how I was going to block that day or what was going to fill it, or even that it was a space that I had to make plans for. Usually, the idea that time gets away from us terrifies me, makes me want to clamp down, hold on tight. But maybe time is like water, and we just need to dive in and float along.