I learned my concept of time from my 10 year old self. She could not understand how grownups could forget what it was like to be a child. She worried about that when she turned 10. Ten was so old, you used all your fingers to show your age.. you were too old to use your fingers to show your age. The first graders were small. Life was passing quickly, it was nearly over. I was really worried about how getting older would change me. It seemed to me that adults didn’t do anything that was fun. They didn’t skate, they didn’t ride bikes, and they didn’t dam the creek and trap tadpoles and crawdads. Now my mother was saying I was too old to do things, like jump on the bed, or hide my dirty clothes under it.
The day I turned 10 I hid in the cool space between the cherry laurels and the house. I was as depressed as a 10 year old can be about aging. I thought forward to who I would be in another 10 years. It took my breath away. I’d be so old, then I thought about 30, 40, and hit the impossible, 50. The 50 year old me would be nearly dead, and not doing anything fun. She would never climb a tree. She would certainly not remember me. I wondered.. could I make her remember me? Would it matter? Would she be any different?
So she had an idea, she would save the day. She looked around at the shadows of the trees on the brick of the house. She felt the coolness of the dirt and looked up at the clouds above her. She “saved the day”. That’s what she called it. She did it once in a while. She even had a chant: “Now is now and then is then”. The days she saved were not big events, just ordinary times. Sitting in class on a hot day with a sticky crinoline with a bulletin board of agricultural products and the smell of the school sweeping compound in the air. Tracing a shadow on butcher paper. Running down the road at dusk with a group of kids. The joy of climbing a tree.
When I was 50 I climbed a tree, just for her. I owed her.
I so like that little girl. She raised me. She thought about things and made choices that were mostly good. She created in me a concept of myself as a continuum. I think of her as a separate person who exists forever at points in time. I like her. I wish I could go back sometimes and help her. Help her understand, give her a hug, ease her worries.
She did a good job. I do remember. I have the brilliant captured moments of the boredom of a classroom, the joy of running at dusk after a hot summer day. I have a perception of myself that feels grounded yet separate. And I am still looking out for that older me. The one who will be 80, that separate person who will be me. I worry about her and want to take care of her. To help her the way that 10 year old helped me.
I like to travel, but I’m going to save some trips for her. They won’t be hard, not Machu Picchu or rafting the Colorado, but they will be full of wonder. I will save her something beautiful to see for the first time. She can thank our little friend for that. After all she started it.