November 30, 2012

Understanding the Passage of Time

A scowl appears on his face.

He doesn't like what I've said.

"What am I gonna do for half an hour?" He emphasizes the extent of what I've asked of him.

Half an hour to wait. Half an hour to spend in a quiet activity while his sister learns to press ivories.

I suppress laughter.
To be thirteen and think half an hour of time is a lengthy burden!

It was my freshman year when I walked the hall with a sociology professor after class.

"Why do you think Christmas comes earlier each year, Dorie?" he asks.

Barely eighteen, I didn't have much life experience. How could I answer such a question? Dumbfounded, I stare open mouth. Did he really expect me to know?

Seeing my dismay and being sympathetic to my plight, or perhaps feeling a bit philosophical just fresh from a lecture, he continues in monologue fashion.

"Christmas seems to come faster each year because comparatively, the fraction of time of your life becomes smaller."

I'm still trying to wrap my head around his impromptu discussion. How desperately I want to appear wise, but no words emerge. I avert my eyes.

"When you are four," he pauses.

I'm feeling about four with the amount of intellect I've added to this conversation.

"your life is quite short. With only one Christmas per year, you have had four. Christmas takes a whole year, or one-quarter of your life to arrive. That's a long time. When you are 84, Christmas still takes a whole year to arrive, but now it is only one-eighty-fourth of your life." He finishes and pauses to see if I understand.

I nod slightly.

He smiles softly, grandfatherly. "You are young. It will make more sense the longer you live."

He turns the corner, I proceed straight.

I sigh, grateful to be released.

This I remember before I answer his question.

His eyes are still pleading to be released from going.

"Half an hour is not too long. I am sure you can find a book or activity to occupy thirty minutes of your time. I usually prepare for science class." I finally answer.

He remains silent.

"It goes quickly," I add, hoping to soothe his scowl.

He accepts his sentence, but disbelief shows on his face.

How can he understand time until he has lived it? passed through the years of life? seen a babe grow to the size of man right before his eyes, in little more than a decade?

Only when he leaves do I chuckle, remembering when I thought half an hour was an eternity.
~ Dorie

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