A timer sits in front of me and eats the seconds away, crunching into my day and my life, reminding me that time is relentless, ticking away as life moves along. It stops for no man--no woman either. During the crises of life, it seems to slow down for sorrows and the sorrows never seem to end. The rapturous seasons of life fly right by us, but really, time is just marching steadily along—never changing. It’s a baby crawling on the floor searching for pennies to cram into its mouth. It’s a teenager driving the restored, candy-apple red ’66 Mustang and picking up the brown-eyed girl for a movie. Time is a man kissing his wife as he leaves for the office and putting macaroni and cheese on his table before rushing off to coach little league. All too soon it’s a man snoring in his recliner, remote in hand and cat in lap, flipping through the endless channels and finding only nothing. It’s a hearse parked at Omega Cemetery and a weeping family. Time needs no one and is totally sufficient unto itself, marching steadily toward eternity.
Humans have had a love/hate relationship with time since the earth began. We don’t understand it and never will, but we love toying with the concept. If only we could control it. . . . If only. Authors have written an infinite number of books about time machines. Just the idea of moving from one era to another is intriguing, to say the least. For example, I’d love to go back to my mother’s childhood and take a peek at it from the safety of a time machine. I certainly don’t want to live there in the Hayes’ family’s shotgun house, heated by the sun in the summer and frozen with winter’s harsh winds in the winter. All too well I remember the privy—the outdoor toilet and I assure you that the memory is as close as I want to get to the real thing. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing Aunt Judy sitting on the porch holding her baby girl or Grandpa and Granny in the old porch swing while we children played in the yard with Old Jack, the hound dog.
We can’t control time, and no one has yet discovered a time machine, so just like the generations before us, we must decide what to do with the hours, minutes, and seconds allotted to us. The timer could sound at any minute, no matter our age, ending our turn upon the earth’s stage.
My mother handled her time in a strange manner. She started every day at 4 a.m. and went to bed with the proverbial chickens at sundown. How well I remember summer trips with her in charge.
At 3:30 Mama would burst through my door, saying, “Mary Ann, get up. I want us out of here by 4 o’clock.”
Our destinations, my aunt’s house and then a family outing to the Jacksonville Zoo, waited down U.S. #1 about 120 miles. Mama was in a hurry. We had to get going. The rest of us stumbled into our clothes and out to the car. Mama had already packed a picnic lunch in the cooler and her pockets jingled with quarters for the coke machines. She’d thought of everything while we slept.
Daddy, on the other hand, yawned and drove south under duress. His attitude toward time was the opposite of Mama’s. He wanted to sleep ‘til 7:00, eat a leisurely breakfast, and leave the house about 8:30 or so, but he knew it was not to be. Mama had to leave early so we could be back early. Her internal clock demanded it.
My parents were incompatible by modern standards, but they did manage to live together in moderate harmony for nearly 50 years. Their clocks never synchronized though.
Poet Andrew Marvell advised that we seize the day, make the most of every minute:
“. . . we cannot make our sun/ Stand still, yet we will make him run.”
When man learns to control time or builds a time machine, then our choices may expand. Until then, we’re on our own, but time has taken on a new meaning during Quarantine. Most days it creeps now.